Affirmations and mantras are terrific tools that children can use to resource/support themselves. They help them develop a healthy sense of self as well as a positive mental-social-emotional mindsets.
Affirmations are short; positive “I am” statements that call you into an intentional way of being. They should be accompanied by a visual image and inspire visceral sensations. When you use affirmation, you should experience yourself as you are declaring.
Mantras are words, sounds, statements or slogans repeated frequently as a way to attune with an intentional energy or quality.
Affirmations and Mantras change how we feel
Affirmations become mantras when they are repeated over and over to oneself, out loud or silently. They change how we feel by aligning and attuning body, mind and heart around a life-enhancing aspiration. In other words, affirmations are another technique for kids to use to set themselves up for doing their best and feeling good about their efforts.
Affirmations help children understand that, like the food they eat, the thoughts they think also shape how they feel and behave. All of the body-mind self-care tools in our self-regulation flash card set include a poem to be chanted while doing the activity. The words of the chant support children in remembering how to do the exercise and call them into a new way of being. When repeated, the practice and the shift in feeling become an embodied habit.
Step 1 – Notice
In using affirmation with kids, it’s important to encourage them to first notice if there are any repetitive thoughts already going on. If they are playing fearful, negative tunes such as: I can’t do this. I’m afraid. I’m not good enough. I’m ugly. I’m stupid. Then, of course, they will feel self-doubt, anxiety or anger. And, if that’s how they are seeing themselves, of course, they will have a hard time seeing the good in the people and events around them. Acknowledge if this is going on and let kids know that it’s normal and that everyone deals with those voices.
Step 2 – Change the music!
Then, invite them to change the music. Lead everyone in miming. Encourage them to pretend to change the radio station or access a new playlist that plays lyrics such as:
I am healthy and strong.
I am confident and capable.
I learn best at my own pace.
I am safe.
I am loved.
Step 3 – Visualize
It’s empowering for kids to act out physically what they are choosing to do mentally. This allows them to disengage with negative thinking and attune instead to a positive affirmation. As they repeat the affirmation to themselves, coach them to see themselves that way – reading well, climbing to the top of the jungle gym, making friends, etc. Give them time to notice how imagining it allows them to also feel it in their whole being.
My favorite book of beautifully illustrated affirmations for young children is artist Connie Bowen’s, I Believe in Me. When I was first teaching, it inspired me to use affirmations and visualizations with my students daily. Very quickly, I noticed the beneficial impact on attitudes, behavior choices, and the ability to self-regulate.