What better way to help a child find happiness than to start within -- being her own best friend. When your child has a best friend inside, she can be happy no matter what storms of life are outside. With a strong foundation of self-love and self-acceptance, kids learn to value their own company and integrity over just fitting in. They realize they can nurture and depend on themselves.
Like six-year-old Chloe who ran from the playground because she felt excluded and believed she had no friends. She imagined encountering a young wizard, Sparkle, who gifted her with a heart-shaped crystal to love herself even if her friends snubbed her, and a star crystal to feel like a star no matter what.
Or 11-year-old Luke who had such a low opinion of himself he thought he didn't deserve anything good and felt responsible to make everyone else except himself happy. He visited The Great Wisdom Library and received a perfect book, "How to Love Yourself." The first chapter? "Believe in yourself!"
Here are six imagination tips to develop self-love, meet that best friend within, and invite happiness to your side:
Practice Forgiveness: Encourage your child to forgive himself as well as others. Have him imagine what forgiveness looks like, or sounds like. Is it a color, a feeling, a character, music? He can ask, "What do I need to do or understand before I can forgive... my parents, my friend, myself?" Have him bring whatever he imagines into his Heart and notice what happens.
Harness Paper Power: Suggest he put his negative views -- his dark feelings and thoughts -- on paper. Drawing and writing can be cathartic, a release of your child's angst. Or perhaps he'd prefer to move out his feelings -- hip hop or ballet -- whatever appeals to him. Once he can let go of his negativity, it will be easier to create the positive.
Use Gifts Wisely: Allow your child or teen to ask for help and use whatever gifts he receives from his inner guides (animal friend, wizard, wise person). Some kids have been given special glasses to see the bright side, precious stones to remind them how special they are, and magic mirrors to show them their real beauty.
Play with Color: Have him experiment with the world of color. See how breathing different colors in and out alters his gloomy feelings -- from red anger to blue calm, black frustration to lavender love, from a closed heart to an open one.
Talk to Yourself Inside -- Nicely: Sometimes we have to practice talking positively about ourselves and others. Have your child think of one or two nice things to say about himself, family members, and friends. Make an ongoing list and stick it on your fridge as a reminder.
Praise Progress, Not Perfection: Kids can mistakenly berate themselves for anything less than perfecdt. Help your child recognize small victories and how far he's come on his road to happiness. By focusing on his efforts and improvements, success follows success.
Imagination offers one path to help kids connect with their inner best friend, step into their personal power, and take responsibility to bring happiness into their lives. I'd love to hear your stories and what works best for yours.
Charlotte Reznick, Ph.D. is a child educational psychologist, an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology at UCLA, and author of the LA Times bestselling book "The Power of Your Child's Imagination: How to Transform Stress and Anxiety into Joy and Success" (Perigee/Penguin). In addition to her private practice, she creates therapeutic relaxation CDs for children, teens, and parents, and teaches workshops internationally on the healing power of children's imagination. You can find out more about her at http://www.imageryforkids.com
This post was adapted from "The Power of Your Child's Imagination: How to Transform Stress and Anxiety into Joy and Success" (Perigee/Penguin).