I was reading my son a bedtime story the other night and I was also secretly thanking God that our day had finally come to an end. Thankfully, my exhaustion didn’t blind me from recognizing the moment that was about to give birth. I quietly watched his mind spinning and his eyes sinking and like a bubble about to be formed and take off into the air, the words began to form. Not wanting to move or breathe trying to avoid bursting the bubble. I just listened and watched. I wanted his words to gently land in my hands, into my arms, his safe place.
Then there was silence. And those awful 3 words were uttered, words that strike fear into any parent. Out of his little mouth came, “I hate myself.”
Immediately, my stomach sank and this mama’s heart quietly cried. Did my little sweet boy just whisper those awful words about himself? Why would my little boy hate himself? What happened? Why?
And then came those questions that pin me to the wall of guilt, “Have I not encouraged him enough? Did I forget to be his cheerleader in the midst of my busyness and exhaustion? What did I do wrong? What did I not do enough of?”
My mind was spinning.
I held him tightly and thankfully, since he wasn’t facing me, he didn’t realize that I was crying. A puddle of tears was forming on the top of his sweet little head.
My husband would tell you I don’t like to be touched when I am falling asleep. But that evening I could have held my little boy all night in my arms to assure him that he is the most amazing little boy I have ever met. But instead I just held him and silently prayed for his little wounded heart. He never shared with me if something happened that day to make him feel that way.
Though it hurt me to the core to hear him utter those words, I was thankful that we had that moment and that he shared this with me. It made me realize that he needed to be on on my TLC radar for the week or however long. It made me aware that he was hurting and needed to be in his mommy’s arms a bit longer that night. Even though my counselor mind was saying this is okay, this is normal, my mama heart was hurting for my child.
Below I will share with you 5 simple tips on how to handle the first time you hear your child say they hate themselves and here are other ideas: 28 Things Your Family Needs to Hear You Say. Most parents want to know what to do after or how they can handle the problem but it’s so important to set a positive foundation from the start. We want them to know they can come back again to that safe place and openly share, this doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences but it does mean that they will always be loved no matter what they tell you.
If this is a common occurrence and you still feel concerned, consult a family therapist you trust who can guide you through this.
Sit down, let them talk and get their feelings and thoughts out, and listen. Don’t interrupt and listen.
2. Stay Calm And Don’t Overreact
It is important that we keep calm when our children share with us. This will help develop healthy and open communication with our child.
3. Reassure Them Verbally And Physically That You Love Them
If they have specifics of why they hate themselves make sure to affirm them in their strengths and your love for them.
4. Give Them A New Way To Talk
Replacing your child’s vocabulary and negative self-talk with positive language can help them express their disappoint in a productive and healthy way. For example, “I am frustrated with how I…. or We all make mistakes and next time I will….”
5. Face — And Embrace — Reality
My child will not always walk out our front door hearing the “Rocky” theme song and feel like a champ but one thing is for sure, he will always know he is loved.
I wish I could tell you I have responded this calmly every single time my son has shared openly with me but honestly I haven’t. We are not perfect, we are all in process learning and walking through this course called, “Real Life Parenting 101” and sometimes I get big fat “F’s” on my assignments. Just remember we are not alone and we are not perfect.