The Cost of Not Teaching Your Children To Love Themselves

The week before July 4th, for the second time, I tried to take my life. The first time I thought about dying, I was eight years old. A girl in my Catholic School class was hit in the head by a swing. I never liked Regina Rowland but the day of her funeral, buried in her Communion dress, I was asking God why He didn’t love me enough to take me instead of her.

The worthlessness I felt then continued into my adulthood and I finally have a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder. Between the abandonment of my father and a stressed out mom who thought constant beatings and emotional and verbal abuse were a form of discipline, I grew up feeling worthless. I fight the feeling now but at times there are triggers that bring me back to the worthless feelings and/or the feeling that something beyond my control, is my fault anyway.

This is such a morose subject matter, especially while I am trying to sell children’s books, but if I can drill into parent’s heads what you do now, as your child is young, has an impact on them for years to come, it will be worth it.

Save your child years of pain. Just love them now. Love them and find a way to deal with your problems without putting them in the middle of your mess. Get help. Explain things to them. Tell your child when there is chaos, it is not their fault. It’s not too late. It’s never too late. Most of all, if you’ve made a mistake, admit it. Be an example to your child. Caregivers are their heroes. They depend on you for the most basic of things: food, clothing, shelter, most of all love.

Let them know whatever happens in life they need to love themselves first. The rest will come! Is it ironic I wrote “Looking in the Mirror” to teach children to love themselves and yet I struggle to love myself? NO, I say. It is the very reason I wrote the book. I know how important it is. I see how different my friend’s lives are and my daughter’s life is because they have a healthy sense of self.

Suicide and depression doesn’t make you crazy. Halle Barry once tried to kill herself. Justin Beiber’s mom tried to commit suicide. Joey Pants wrote his book on depression. Ms. Zeta-Jones suffers from depression. Millions of people have issues. Try to take care of your children the best you can when they are young so they have the best chance to grow up as healthy as possible. That is a parent’s responsibility. If something is wrong, seek help a.s.a.p.

For the most part, I live a fairly happy, zany, life. I enjoy my daughter and my home, and I have the best friends in the world. I wish those lapses in judgement, those memories of the past, those feelings of worthlessness that can be triggered just by someone blowing me off, didn’t exist, but they do. I’m working on it and one day I will appreciate the wonderful human being I know deep down inside I am and I’ll be able to say, ” Hey, I love myself anyway!”

 

Mom lets six year old cut her hair – BRAVO!

I remember when my daughter was seven and she wanted a bob. Her hair had been to her  tush since I could remember and it was beautiful. Everyone always commented about how beautiful her hair was. I didn’t want to cut it and I asked Rachel why she wanted to cut off her beautiful hair. She responded with a reasonable answer: “I’m tired of having to sit still for one and one-half hours while you blow it out. I just want something different” I told Rachel I would give it some thought as she reminded me it was her hair.

The following week, I went for a trim and told Cherylyn, my stylist, my conversation with Rachel. Cherylyn had really long hair. “If she wants to cut it. Let her. You don’t want her to think she is only pretty because of her long hair. You want her to think she is pretty and worthy no matter what she does and it grows back.” This was the way I had been raising Rachel anyway and I caught myself worrying about what everyone’s reaction would be. I realized at that moment Rachel was confident enough to try something new and I was proud of her.

I went home and told Rachel she could cut her hair any way she wanted to. She would still be the same gorgeous person with the same great heart. She cut her hair; loved it for a while, then started growing it back. It was a great experience for both of us. It taught us so many principals like respecting each other and what really makes someone shine. Parenting isn’t just about saying “yes” or “no”. It’s about listening.

Bravo to the mom who let her daughter go to a salon to cut her hair. One day your daughter might be the next CEO of her own company or the best stay at home mom ever. As for my daughter Rachel, she always does the right thing and is studying for her Masters at NYU. I think there is something to be said for moms who participate in letting their daughters make healthy choices for themselves.  BRAVO!!

LOOKING IN THE MIRROR CHALLENGE for SANDY HOOK

Image

For all the sweet little children and their parents, all the teachers, all their loved ones, for every person affected by the horror of Sandy Hook, I feel the only way to truly honor those who have passed in this tragedy is by making a difference.

To keep the “monsters” away, we have to stop creating them. The only way we can do that is by being invested in our youth and in mental health.

Have you ever seen a happy and kind bully?

If children are taught to love themselves, they will feel better about life, about their neighbor, and about the world around them. Unfortunately, some children don’t have parents who care enough about them. Some children are born with a mental disorder or due to trauma develop some issues. There can be many reasons a child is sad, angry or doesn’t fit in. So many of us think it’s not our problem until a child with unattended problems becomes an enraged adult.

I am creating the:

LOOKING IN THE MIRROR CHALLENGE for SANDY HOOK

 

There are seven special books. Each one has one single letter I wrote and initialed in red, in back of the book. Together, the letters spell I LOVE ME (also the words in the last page of the story). During the year, a panel will choose one letter from an individual, a school, a book club, a team, an office, etc. describing how they made a difference by making sure every child knows he/she is special and/or every child has the best opportunity to receive the tools they need to grow up happy.

 The challenge can be accomplished by:

  • Making a difference in one child’s life who truly needs help
  • Coming up with a solution so every child is aware of self-love like every child is aware of brushing their teeth in the morning
  • Finding a way to improve health coverage for mental health for all – no matter your financial circumstance for those who didn’t have this opportunity.
  • Creating a bill which makes it mandatory for children to receive psychological exams as well as annual physical exams – perhaps parents too!
  • Any other way you can think of to create permanent change

All entries are due by December 31st. Mail to: Looking in the Mirror, P.O. Box 2192, Huntington, CT 06484

Each Valentine’s Day the story of the winner with the most change provoking act or accomplishment will be read in honor of the children and teachers who died on December 14, 2012. The first book with the letter “I” will be given out next year, February 14, 2014.

Let’s see which state, school, person, etc. wins the most letters and makes Valentine’s Day a day of love for Sandy Hook. It gives us seven years to come up with a solution or solutions and make real change. Let’s truly honor those who suffered at Sandy Hook.

NOTHING WOULD MAKE ME HAPPIER THAN FOR A SOLUTION OR ALL THE SOLUTIONS TO BE PUT INTO PLACE BY NEXT VALENTINE’S DAY. I WOULD LOVE TO GIVE OUT ALL SEVEN BOOKS NEXT YEAR!!!

Let Valentine’s Day be the day we love all children a little more by asking:

  • How have I been as a parent this year?
  • Do I take the time to ask my child about their day? Are they happy?
  • Is there a child I know who may need my help and I’ve just been ignoring the issue?
  • Is there anyway I can volunteer my time to help in the field of mental health or bring awareness to the problem?
  • Is there a parent who is overwhelmed and could use some help?
  • Do I think the child next door is being neglected or abused?
    Additional prizes and awards may be announced To purchase a copy of “Looking in the Mirror” go to www.jeanninemarieauthor.com.  A percentage of all purchases go to charities supporting the well-being of children. It is my hope I will eventually be able to give free books to all children in need.

GIFTS

Gifts come in many forms. They come wrapped up in boxes with shiny paper and pretty bows. Some are big. Some are small. Some of them are so beautiful, we cry with joy. Some of them – just make us cry! Some gifts are funny. Some are boring or even ugly. But  being in the company of people who would even bother to give you a gift, is in itself, a gift.

This season, don’t complain about your gifts. Be grateful for whatever you receive. Focus instead on what you have to give; and the best thing that you can give……….. is love.

Happy Holidays from my bunk to yours, with love.

Jeannine Marie

Teenagers – What are They Angry About?

If you want to find out the answer to that question – ask your teen. If your relationship is in turmoil and you find you are asking yourself,”What happened to my sweet little girl (or boy)”, sit down with your teen and have a discussion – not a screaming match. But the most important thing is you have to come to the table owning your own stuff! If your child is    disrespectful toward you – what is your part in this problem? Do you speak to your child with respect? If your child is hitting you or others – have you raised a hand to them? Do they witness violence in the home or in their own environment?

Instead of entering the screaming match competition, be the leader; be the parent. By admitting any mistakes you’ve made and/or offering direction for any mistakes they have made or others have made, you teach your child responsibility. A kind heart and LISTENING helps a lot. Do not say,”That’s not what I said or did”. Rather – validate their feelings, i.e. “I know you feel that is what I said, and perhaps I did, but the message I was trying to relay was…..”.

In any dialogue, instead of wasting time on being an accuser, spend your time in being a problem solver and a parent who wants to help. As my grandmother used to say: “It takes two to tango!”

Be a Parent Who Makes a Difference

“What we need in the United States is not division….is not hatred……but love, wisdom, and compassion toward one another.”
Robert F. Kennedy

Not many of us can be as great a person as Robert F. Kennedy, but all of us can be great parents if we truly want to be. Love your children. Teach them right from wrong. Teach them to care. Treat them with respect so they respect others. In the end, you can take comfort in the fact you did the best you could to instill love, faith, and passion in your child. It is our duty to do so.

It’s the Little Moments that Count

Little moments do count a lot. Of course, with a big present, your child’s eyes are going to be as big as pizza pies and their mouths are so wide, they look like mini tunnels, but believe me, the little moments are more important in the long run.

Children are little replicas of us. They just haven’t matured fully yet. However, they have a lot of the same needs. They need to feel understood, heard, validated, and loved. So take the time, even if you’re tired. You would take the time if your friend text you or emailed you. Do the same for your little one.

Don’t be too tired or too busy to interact with your child. Make a big deal about each picture and if you have absolutely no idea what it is, ask your child to explain it to you. You don’t want to say, “Nice cat” when in fact they drew grandma! If they want to tell you about Mary or Sam and what they said and they what they did and then……….. pay attention and offer kind words and a hug if necessary. It is these moments that add up that give your child the feeling he/she is loved and knows he/she always has a gentle place to fall.

No one is perfect. You’re not looking for perfection. You’re looking to have way more moments you made time for your child while you were home, than not. Before you know it, all the little moments add up to the type of parental relationship you eventually have with your child. So enjoy; in no time, you’d give anything for them to still be at home drawing you a picture. Oh R A C H E L…………

Take Time To Smile

You never know what kind of day someone is having. Giving them a little smile can make a huge difference. Sometimes all we need is to feel just a little kindness from somebody. So smile at someone; not just today, but at least once a day. Challenge yourself at least once a week to smile tenderly at someone who looks especially mean. Who knows what is going on in their life! Smiling makes you feel good and is such a gift for the person you are smiling at. The best gifts in life are free!

Your Treasures

Your child is about to begin school and soon your fridge, your cork board, or whatever your  designated display area is for your children’s school work will soon begin to fill up. Like presents under the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, soon you may no longer have room to put even one more drawing or school project anywhere. I mean you really have to put limits on pasting stuff to the dog’s bed or putting Timmy’s version of the solar system hanging from the dining-room chandelier!

The solution: A bin of treasures. You don’t have to feel guilty for throwing anything out. You and your child together can choose what is displayed and what goes into the treasure bin. The best part: Each year, you can pick out at least two things that were just outstanding or your favorite or your child’s favorite. It could be something that had emotional value or just something that had a funny story attached to it. Take those two things, write down the story and create a separate: “Treasures from your Treasure Bin”. Decorate a box or bin beautifully and tie it with a bow. On graduation day, put your gift inside this box, along with all their past treasures. It will be a gift your child will never forget. If money is an issue at graduation – no worries – the treasure box of memories will be more than enough.

LOTS OF DISCUSSION ABOUT MY SPANKING BLOG – QUESTIONS ON MY OWN EXPERIENCE

When I was a child, I spent most of my life trying to figure out if I was going to get a beating that day. Did I look at my mom the wrong way? Was she in a bad mood after work? Did not eating vegetables that night mean opening up the closet door and listening to those belts knocking into each other as she made her choice for the weapon to “tear my behind” as she used to say? I was a straight A student and never got into trouble but there was something about me that irked my mother and beatings were just part of my life. Most likely, it was that I looked like my father, at least she told me that on several occasions. At times, she would pull me by the hair and take me in front of the bathroom mirror so I could see the red blotches on my face, made by my tears and point out to me how ugly I was. Now, she is in denial and says it never happened. I made it up.

The scariest moment in my life was when I was either pregnant or my daughter was little, I can’t remember any more, but I was watching Oprah – of course! She said most abused children become abusive parents.It was as if Oprah came through my TV set and slapped me across my face, punched me, and then kicked me down a flight of stairs, where once at the bottom of the flight, I uttered the word,”what!”

I couldn’t imagine giving my daughter the same life I had to endure. It just couldn’t be possible. But what if she were right! I mean, after all, she was Oprah Winfrey! I wasn’t going to take any chances. I started to read many books about raising children. My favorite: How to Talk to Kids so they Listen and Listen so they Talk. I checked out so many books. Most of all, I was honest with my daughter. I told her it is never ok for me to yell at her and if I ever scream at her and scare her, just say to me calmly, “Mommy, I don’t wish to speak to you when you’re yelling at me. I will talk to you when you calm down.”

So Rachel and I had a life together of mutual respect. I never hit her. I only yelled at her a total of three times in her life. She never had a Curfew. She didn’t need one. We respected each other enough to be honest with one another and lying was just not allowed. Rachel grew up with a great sense of self. She is smart and confident and enjoys her life. She is currently in grad school. She is respectful and of course for me – an amazing human being.

She was never spanked. She turned out fine and special and loves her self. So which way is better? Teaching your children to fear you and the one with power is the one you have to listen to? OR mutual respect should be earned and you are just as important as anyone else – no matter what. The healthiest children are the ones who love themselves as well as others.

Don’t spank your children and steal who they were born to be. Honor them. Respect them. Love them. Teach them to do the same for themselves as well as for you. You don’t ever need to spank. The five letter word you need is TEACH. It is a privilege to be a parent or a guardian, remember that. When they look in the mirror, they should only see love.

Jeannine Marie