As your child grows up, they will hear lots of messages about who they are. It’s impossible to protect your child from every harmful message about who they are, but you can give them a healthy identity as a strong foundation! Here are some ways to teach your child to find their identity in good, healthy ways.
1. Let them know it is safe to talk to you
One of the best ways to protect your child’s mental and emotional health is to make sure they feel safe talking to you. If they know they can tell you anything, they are more likely to come to you when they have problems. When we provide safe spaces for them to share negative messages they get about their identity, we can help them become resilient against them! If they don’t feel safe talking about it, they may hide it or feel ashamed, making the problem grow in silence. Listen carefully when they tell you how they are feeling or who they think they are, so you can reinforce good messages and help them deconstruct harmful messages.
2. Emphasize healthy values
Even before your child is exposed to the media’s messages about where their worth comes from, you can help them start strong by emphasizing healthy values. Make sure your children know that they are valued as children of God first, not based on works or appearance. Then, emphasize positive biblical values in their lives, like honesty and compassion. By teaching them these values as core to who they are, you are giving them an advantage. If they know they are already valued, they won’t feel the same pressure to change themselves in order to be loved. After all, they are already loved and precious just as they are!
3. Use healthy language to describe your children
When you are describing your children, be careful to use positive attributes when describing who they are! For example, if they are not doing their chores when they should be, do not describe them as lazy. Instead, say something like “I know you are a hard worker, but you are not acting like it right now. Can you change your behavior to better reflect that part of you?” Another example is, instead of calling your child impatient, say “Can you practice being patient right now?” Using these positive words to describe them teaches them that bad choices are not their identity. This helps them see those bad behaviors as something to work on, instead of part of who they are.
Now, you are prepared to help your child of any age develop a healthy identity!