Self-Love, Identity & Acceptance for Children

Self-Love, Identity & Acceptance

Meaningful Conversations for Empathy & Social Emotional Well-being in Children ages 3-7

One of the best ways to connect children and engage them in age-appropriate and meaningful conversations about empathy is through books.  Books take important topics and bring them into a child’s view.  By exploring stories with your child you are teaching them the importance and value of empathetic thinking, a strong predictor of long term success.  However, teaching children about empathy does not happen in a single instant or in one reading of a book.  It happens over time by engaging with books and having age-appropriate conversations about those stories.

Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho & Illustrated by Dung Ho is a book every family should read and/or own.  When I first learned about it, I immediately knew it was a book I needed to have in my collection and I would be recommending it to the parents I work with.  Two of the themes in this book are self-love and acceptance, which are core values of raising children to be confident and capable individuals.  Through the beautiful illustrations and carefully woven narrative, this story highlights the importance of recognizing the beauty of Asian identity and how it relates to fostering acceptance and encouraging diversity.  It also shows how important it is for children to see beauty in their features and in their friends, classmates and people who look different than them.  

Social Emotional Well-being and Self-Love

The idea that when a child looks in the mirror they should love the face that is looking back at them is a core component of social emotional well-being.  An important part of this is accepting your features as they exist instead of wishing or trying to look like someone else.  Empathy is knowing about diverse features in others and supporting them in accepting their identity and beauty.  This does not happen without conversations.  Children by nature are self-focussed and the system typically reinforces one model as the ideal so it’s not something they will understand without conversations.  To help them, adults need to make connections.

Ideas to Get You Started Using This Book for Social Emotional Well-Being & Empathy

Talk About the Author & Illustrator

An important part of fostering empathy is making connections for your child to the author and illustrator of the book.  Talk to them about who wrote and drew the pictures and how they are sharing their stories with us.  A really important part of this book is that authentic voices are sharing the importance of their cultural identity as it relates to their eyes and eye shape.  On the book jacket there is a little summary about each of them, don’t skip over this part, it’s a core component of what makes this book meaningful.

Intro Conversations:

”Eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea.”

  1. This is a beautiful story about a little girl who learns that her eyes and eye shape are an important part of who she is.
  2. Her eyes and eye shape connect her to her Mama and her Amah (and beyond).
  3. Her eyes and eye shape connect her to really important things about her (identity, beauty, etc).

Fostering Social Emotional Well-being:

“They are me and they are beautiful”

  1. Are your eyes & eye shape an important part of who you are?
  2. Are your friends/others eyes & eye shape an important part of who they are?
  3. How do your eyes and eye shape tell stories about you?

Developing Empathy:

”My eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea are a revolution…”

It is really important that all children and people feel that their features are beautiful. For this story, the focal point is on how eyes and eye shape are beautiful.  

Goal: Your eyes and eye shape are beautiful and so are your friends, family, community members, strangers, etc…  All eyes and eye shapes are a beautiful part of people. 

  1. How do eyes and eye shapes connect people?
  2. How are eyes and eye shapes an important part of people?
  3. Why are eyes and eye shapes an important part of who people are?

* These questions have been specifically created for this book, but you can imagine ways of using similar questions with other books to talk about other elements of diversity and self-acceptance.

Stories and Books as a Foundation

Think of reading stories like this as laying a foundation for conversations that can evolve and develop as children grow and mature.  Tuck them away and use them as something to handle conversations that come up or when you see situations that need a point of reference.  Books like this help children process topics they can’t understand or see by giving them pictures and words at their level.

Social-emotional wellbeing and empathy are skills that require development and practice.  The ideas outlined here are just to get you started.  For a more in-depth and customized approach, I help parents and caregivers with tools and strategies through one-on-one coaching. 

*Note: This blog post is not sponsored and I have no official affiliations with the publisher, author or illustrator.  The thoughts, ideas and reflections are my personal perspective and ideas.*

Stop Telling Me How I Feel

SEL Makes Parenting Easier

I’m passionate about a lot of things, but one of the things that has driven my passion in education for nearly 20 years is the idea that we need to understand ourselves, our feelings, our thoughts and our behaviours in order to make sense of our world.  This is often referred to as Social Emotional Intelligence or Social Emotional Learning (SEL).  Commonly thought to be something kids learn in school, I’m here to tell you how it can making your parenting life easier.

When you give children (and adults) the tools to identify, understand, and talk about their feelings, they can problem solve challenges more effectively.  Spoiler alert, kids don’t always have the feelings we assign to them.  Despite how well we think we know our kids, even really young ones, we need to remember they are independent human beings and only they truly know what they are feeling in any given moment.  When kids can tell you how they are feeling instead of you assuming, it opens a whole new set of possibilities for navigating challenges.

 I’m NOT 😡😢😓😴…. Don’t Tell Me How I FEEL!!!

Have you ever had a child adamantly yell – “I’m NOT [insert emotion]!” – right after you have said, “you look [insert emotion].”  This is an example of us labelling a child’s feelings instead of providing them with tools to understand and share their own feelings.  Have you ever noticed when you label a child’s feelings it quite often makes things worse?  There is a lot of advice out there telling us the importance of labelling feelings for children.  I wholeheartedly agree on the importance of being able to identify emotions.  The part I want to clarify is that it isn’t our place to label someone else’s feelings, even if that someone is our child.

So how do I do this if I don’t label their feelings?

Rule Number 1: Don’t teach feelings when someone is having big feelings

Instead: Think of it like learning a new language.  You wouldn’t try to teach a child a new language while they are upset or having a meltdown.  It’s more likely you would sit together with books, label things in conversation, etc.  SEL is no different, you want to approach it the same way you might teach a child a second language. 

  1. Start simple and build your vocabulary.
  2. Use books, do activities, play games => Follow Instagram or Facebook for more ideas
  3. Practice, make mistakes, model acceptance
  4. Learn with your child (Guess what? Most of us didn’t learn this stuff as a kid and that’s ok, it’s something you can learn at any age and you’ll be happier for it!)

The Power of SEL in Parenting

Once you start to develop SEL with your child, your relationship will change because you will understand your child and their feelings from their perspective.  This is POWERFUL and opens so many possibilities for problem solving, developing connections, understanding difficulties and supporting strengths.  Guess what else?  You will learn more about yourself as a parent/caregiver and how your feelings affect your decisions and ability to navigate the ups and downs of raising resilient children.