A key aspect of my work with teens and parents to improve their relationship is the (seemingly) simple concept of kindness. Understanding and modeling kindness is one quick step toward self-care and self-love. We can model the kindness we want to see in our children, as well as the kindness we want for ourselves. What I am sharing here is intended to help parents with their teens as well as help anyone on the path toward more self-love.
I define “kindness” as respect, compassion, and generosity. When others express these qualities to me, I feel uplifted and my heart feels warm, or I feel a bit of encouragement when my day seems cloudy. Is that true for you? Kindness is contagious!
Kindness is good for your health
Neurologically speaking, kindness and happiness increase the so-called “feel-good” hormones, oxytocin (decreases blood pressure) and serotonin (decreases anxiety and depression). Helping others can produce feelings of happiness and can activate the reward centers of the brain just like Valentine’s Day chocolates do. What is known as the “helper’s high” increases the immune system against stress. Studies also show that the observers of kindness get as much benefit as the person giving the kindness!
Kindness is a learned skill
Kindness is a concept that many of us take for granted, and automatically expect it of ourselves and our teens. In fact, kindness is something that is taught and needs to be practiced and modeled because it isn’t always second nature to children — or to adults, for that matter.
Here are some ways to model kindness for yourself and your family.
Effective communication is an act of kindness. Be open to your teens and other loved ones about your perspectives, feelings, expectations and boundaries (especially if you’re not used to doing so). It helps them understand you better, and can inspire kindness in thought, words and actions.
Modeling Kindness Tip: Find a teachable moment with your teen to share a story of when you were vulnerable, had a setback or felt embarrassment – and what you learned from it.
Being respectful is an act of kindness. Modeling respectful behavior shows others how you want to be treated. Feeling respected is an important aspect of a healthy level of self-worth and self-love.
Modeling Kindness Tip: Showing respect for others is an everyday opportunity. When you smile at a stranger or volunteer to help someone, you’re sending a message to your teen that kindness is a value which brings joy to self and others.
Accepting “imperfections” is an act of kindness. When we let go of the need to be right or perfect, we open ourselves to greater self-acceptance and show up as less judgmental of others. Teens want to be understood, and not to be lectured to about how to do things perfectly.
Modeling Kindness Tip: Show your teen that life isn’t about being right or perfect by sharing with them those moments when you make a mistake or do something less than perfectly.
Acknowledging kindness is an act of kindness. When you comment on a generous act that your loved one has done, it reinforces their generous and kind behaviors. This is especially effective with children because they can soak up all the positive affirmations you have to give. It also helps them connect to the good feelings that kindness can bring. And, of course, it feels good to you too!
Modeling Kindness Tip: Notice when your teen is being generous to someone else, and acknowledge them for it. Compliments are a precious gift to the giver and the receiver!
I hope you have discovered a new awareness, or a valuable reminder, of what kindness is and can be in your journey of self-love, and that you explore all of the wonderful emotions that are associated with being kind to others and to oneself. “When awareness is brought to an emotion, power is brought to your life.” ~ Tara Meyer Robson.