Caring for Yourself

Feelings of powerlessness, helplessness, and lack of control have been identified as major characteristics, if not causes, of a number of psychological disorders in both children and adults. They may be the basis of depression, anxiety, relationship difficulties, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, acting-out behaviors, and general dissatisfaction with life. As illustrated in Story 14, "Let Joe Do It," it can be easy for children—unwittingly and unintentionally—to acquire patterns of self-doubt or self-denigration. From a child's perspective, parents, elder siblings, teachers, or role models can seem so much more capable that children may interpret this as their own inadequacy.

Learning to care for the self—as well as caring for others—serves both a curative and a preven-tative function. The more children can learn to nurture and look after themselves, the less likely they are to suffer from low levels of self-esteem or self-confidence. A balanced attitude toward self-nurturing reduces the probability of depression, anxiety, and unhappy interpersonal relationships. A good sense of self-worth enhances feelings of empowerment and confidence, thus equipping the child for challenging situations in the present or future.

The stories in this chapter are about increasing the child's self-evaluation and self-acceptance. They tell tales of moving on from challenging situations as well as of recognizing one's own abilities, strengths, and uniqueness. They give examples of learning to accept compliments and to acknowledge that it is okay to be good without having to be perfect.

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