This past year put many milestones, events, and special occasions on hold, especially for young ones growing up during a global pandemic. However, the importance of celebrations should not be overlooked, particularly now.
While children are motivated at school by receiving praise and recognition, for many, this environment wasn’t accessible. It’s now entirely up to parents, guardians, and families to add ceremony, joy, and celebration into children’s lives so that they learn to value and honor themselves. Teaching your kids to celebrate their achievements and recognize their worth will boost their self-esteem, improve their self-efficacy, and ultimately make them feel capable of taking on the challenges of growing up.
How celebrations can change children for the better.
All children should have good self-esteem, but it may be especially important for girls. Elementary school girls often start with a high valuation of themselves and can easily and unabashedly name the things they are good at and what they like about themselves. They respond to questions in confident and celebratory ways, saying “I am a really good speller,” or “Every time I get a good grade, I dance around my room.”
Unfortunately, this sense of confidence declines over time as they move from elementary to middle school and further into puberty. They become more self-critical and cautious of what others think of them. They stop congratulating themselves for fear of being perceived as full of themselves and instead wait to be congratulated.
Once they’re in high school, girls have to be reminded that it’s alright to feel good about their skills and talents.
Help your kids develop a positive self-talk habit. Help them create an affirmation.
The way you talk to yourself reflects how you see yourself. To help the young people in your life to become kinder to themselves, have them choose affirming and motivational mantras that they can repeat to themselves throughout the day. They can be as simple as “I am powerful.”
At the end of the day, ask your child to share something about themselves that they are proud of. Make a routine out of it, and eventually, they won’t wait for you to ask and will celebrate with you the things they’ve accomplished or feel good about without being prompted. This practice is not meant to encourage self-aggrandizement but should be focused on identifying and recognizing your child’s ability and agency in overcoming challenges.
Create and surround your child with positive mental images or visualizations of success.
What we visualize and imagine about ourselves informs the way we act in the world. Ask your child to visualize themselves doing the things they want to do. Have them focus on the positive feelings they hope to have at the end of these experiences. Keep thinking about these positive images together until the emotions become real. These visualizations can be highly motivational, not just for kids, but for adults too.
You can use these visualization exercises to make a vision board. This is a great way to help your kids further identify and clarify what it is they are working towards in life.
For your child’s next birthday, ask them what they want to do.
When a child is very young, parents are in charge of how their birthdays are celebrated. However, there comes a time when children can come up with their own preferences and ideas on how they want to celebrate themselves. At this point, perhaps around their fifth birthday, it’s important to incorporate your child’s opinions on the details of their own parties.
Collaborate on the guest list, themes, refreshments, and perhaps even some aspects of the budget. This way your child can also learn that celebrations of life don’t have to happen on their actual birthday but can be celebrated the week before or the week after, or maybe on the weekend. Talking about details such as these can help your child develop a healthy understanding of what it means to celebrate themselves, and that self-celebration can be flexible and nuanced.