"Nobody likes me." "I'm so fat." "I'm not good at anything!"
How many of us have heard our child say something like this about themselves at some point or another?
We all say negative things about ourselves from time to time, but its really heard to hear our child doing it. We begin to wonder: are these just harmless words from a youngster having a bad day or is it a sign of something serious?
WHAT IS SELF TALK?
Self talk is essentially our inner voice. Its our inner monologue that consists of both conscious and unconscious thoughts and reflects our beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. Depending on what the type of self talk we engage in, it could have a positive or negative affect on our well being. Positive self talk encourages and motivates us, whilst negative self talk can reduce our self esteem and make us feel anxious and insecure.
3 TYPES OF NEGATIVE SELF TALK
1. All or nothing thinking.
An example of this is if one small thing doesn't go right for your child then they feel like everything is ruined! They will exaggerate the thing that has gone wrong and when you try to remind them of the things that have gone right, they dismiss those things and downplay them.
A child that is a perfectionist and who sets themselves very high standards will often engage in negative self talk as they struggle to meet their own impossible standards.
3. Lack of Resilience
Sometimes your child may respond to a particular disappointment with negative self talk that seems disproportionate to the level of disappointment experienced. This can indicate a lack of resilience and an inability to keep going when things get tough.
WHEN SHOULD YOU WORRY?
Negative talk from your child every now and again is normal and not usually a cause for concern. But it maybe a cause for concern if the following signs are present:
a) It is persistent and pervasive.
b) It doesn't represent reality. For example, if your child is relatively popular and well liked but believes that no one likes them. Or another example is a child who is smart and does well at school but is always concerned that they wont do well in a test or project.
c) It begins to have an effect on your child's schoolwork or relationship with others.
d) It begins to disrupt their everyday activities such as sleeping and patterns.
e) There is a noticeable persistent change to their mood and behaviour.
It is important to take note of these signs as they can also indicate depression, anxiety and low self esteem.
WHAT CAN PARENTS DO TO HELP?
1. Active listening and validating their feelings.
As a parent myself i know that my first impulse is to either ignore the negative comments, hoping that they will go away or dismiss it entirely. However, it is best to actively listen to your child's comments and validate their feelings. This way your child feels heard and it gives you a better opportunity to get to the bottom of where these feelings are coming from.
2. Avoid over the top positivity.
Whilst it is natural to want to combat your child's negativity with positivity, this may come across as dismissive and unrealistic. It is better to acknowledge the negative feelings being expressed by your child whilst balancing it out with some possible positive outcomes.
3. Model positive self-talk.
If our children see us talking to and about ourselves in a way that is motivating and forgiving, they are far more likely to follow our example. I firmly believe that we are our children's first and biggest role models.
4.Check in with school, friends and family.
If it is possible, check in with your child's school and important relationships that they have. This may help you to get a better idea of what could be behind the negative self talk that you may have missed.
5. Don't be afraid to seek professional support.
It may be necessary to get help from your G.P or a licensed mental health professional to help you and your child get to the root cause of the problem and ways to combat it. This is especially important if your child is experiencing some of the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety listed above.
Our empowerment workshops are designed to help girls build confidence and resilience and we show them ways in which negative self talk can affect their wellbeing. Check out our upcoming workshops here. You can also contact us to find out more about our workshops.