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How to Use Affirmations With Kids

How to use affirmations with kids

What are affirmations?

Young children’s minds develop along with their confidence and sense of self. One of the best ways to help kids gain self-confidence and a positive sense of self is through the use of affirmations. 

Affirmations are positive words and phrases that nurture emotional wellbeing and create a positive and growth-oriented mindset. These thoughts and phrases can be used to challenge negative thoughts that aren’t supportive and make you feel poorly. They can be used to motivate, to encourage and even to boost self-esteem and self-confidence. 

Like a hug you give yourself, affirmations help us feel positive and upbeat, even when things aren’t going the way we would like them too. This is helpful because during hard times we can use affirmations to rewire and override our brain’s negativity bias and look for the silver lining in the clouds. 

Why are affirmations for kids helpful?

Think of it like this: our minds are like gardens. Our words, thoughts, and the stories we tell ourselves are the seeds that grow in that very fertile soil. Planting thought seeds that are calm and peaceful will make you feel much more positive than if you were to think thoughts that are chaotic and negative. 

Using affirmations with kids is like sowing flower seeds instead of weeds. Positive words, like flowers can bloom in your child’s mind and impact their inner and outer worlds. But, if the words a child hears and repeats over and over are negative, they, like weeds, will spread into many areas of a child’s life, robbing them of joy, peace, and resilience. 

Like weeds, negative words and phrases tend to have deep roots, and the longer they remain in a child’s mind, the harder they are to get rid of. That’s why teaching children to use affirmations, from a young age, helps them train their brain toward a positive way of looking at themselves, life and the world.

The science behind affirmations:

These thought patterns that influence our behaviors and feelings are some of the basic tenets of cognitive psychology. How we think influences our behaviors and feelings, which in turn influence our thoughts, creating a cycle between our thoughts and behaviors. If you or your child are planting seeds that are negative, a vicious cycle that can seem hard to break out of can emerge. One way to ensure you are planting more positive seeds than negative ones is through using affirmations with kids.

Affirmations are words and sentences that are repeated over and over, that in time, help to rewire your brain. Affirmations have been used for hundreds of years to help people shape their thoughts and their lives. More recently, they have been researched in several scientific studies and results suggest that affirmations may play an important role in shaping our brain systems to be more positive.

One 2016 MRI study found that key neural pathways may be increased through the consistent use of affirmations. Like a garden needs daily nourishment, using affirmations with kids should ideally be practiced continually for at least two weeks or more before benefits can be experienced.

How to use affirmations with kids

Because kids are naturally open-minded, childhood is a great time to introduce the use of affirmations. Presenting affirmations like positive seeds being planted in a garden is a great way to explain the concept to them.  

If your child likes superheroes or fantasy, tell them that affirmations are also like super powers or magic words. You might want to have them make a magic wand, or wear a superhero cape when they say the words. Oftentimes saying the words, and doing something “magical and fun” makes the practice very meaningful for little ones. 

Kids also need to know that affirmations are an important part of their day and self-care routine. Like brushing their teeth, completing their homework, or getting a good night’s rest, regularly practiced affirmations will help them feel better and achieve their goals.

Once they understand the basics of what affirmations are, build this practice into their daily routine. It might be in the mornings in a mirror before school or at night in bed as a part of their bedtime routine. Ask your child when they want to say their affirmations and follow their lead.

Adapting affirmations for kids

The only rule for affirmations is to make them believable. This is important, because if a child doesn’t believe what they are saying, the affirmation won’t work. Affirmations need to be rooted in reality and something a child believes is possible, not an exercise in toxic positivity. 

For example, a child struggling with reading will feel uncomfortable with the affirmation, “I am a good reader” because they have evidence that it isn’t true that plays out in their daily struggles. 

Rephrasing an affirmation to, “Every day reading gets easier for me,” or “I work hard at reading and I keep getting better every day.”  This works because it gives the child a sense of control over the outcome. When they make progress in reading it becomes evidence that proves their words are having power over their thoughts and actions. When they have evidence, they believe they affirmations more and more, and the result is positive and productive.

Ready to practice using affirmations within meditation? Try listening to Raccoon and the Wishing Well* or Weasel’s Loving-Kindness Meditation*.

*Only available with a Wee Meditate subscription.