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The Art of Self-Worth

    By Boys Town Contributor

Anxiety, Child Development, Connecting with Kids, Coping Skills, Depression, Parent-Child Relationships

​She was an acclaimed fashion designer. 

He was a popular celebrity chef and TV personality.

It was a New York Times bestselling novel turned small screen teen drama.

All three shared the same sad theme: suicide.  

The recent deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain coincided with the release of unsettling statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that showed a disturbing rise in suicide rates among Americans of all races, ages and sexes. The resulting (and inevitable) media glare raised alarms among some mental health experts that the celebrities' suicides were being sensationalized, even glamorized. Parents, too, hold similar concerns about the Netflix drama 13 Reasons Why, and its controversial depiction of a high school student's decision to end her life.

Let kids know they're loved… appreciated… valued… needed

Anytime suicidal behaviors grab headlines, there's a fear of contagion or copycat suicides. So when self-harm stories dominate our screens and social media feeds, like they do now, it can raise the risk for those who already feel vulnerable, especially children and teens. Given all this attention, it's important to let our kids know they're loved, they're appreciated, they're valued and they're needed.

As parents, we have lots of ways to make our kids feel happy and good about themselves. We can tell them in our words. We can show them by our actions. We can be straightforward or subtle, effusive or reserved. But regardless of how we express it, fostering our children's sense of self-worth is essential.  

One of the more creative and special ways to remind children of all the positive qualities they possess can be done by creating word clouds (or word art). Here's how it works….       

Kids, clouds and connecting

Begin by asking every family member to gather around the dining table with pen and paper in hand. Ask everyone to jot down several things they like or admire about each member of the family. The more words or phrases (5 to 10) they come up with for each person, the better.

Encourage thoughtful responses and provide suggestions so it doesn't become too silly or superficial. For example, you don't want comments that focus solely on appearance or style (cute hair or clear skin). Words like "kind," "big heart" and "selfless" are much more meaningful.

Give everyone enough time to finish their lists, and then collect all the responses. Don't share the comments with anyone just yet.      

Compile all the compliments about each individual by going online to, a free, easy-to-use site for creating word clouds. Click on "Create Now" to begin. First, remove the default words ("word," "cloud" and "art") in the "Filter" column by clicking on each word and hitting the "Remove" button. You'll replace these default words with the phrases written about a family member.

In the "New Word" text box, type a family member's name. (You'll want the name to be first, or at the top, so it will be in the center of the word cloud.) After typing the name, use the "Tab" key to get a "New Word" text box and type a word/phrase about that individual. Hit Tab again for a new text box and repeat until you've listed every word/phrase that was written to describe that family member.

You can play around with size, shape, layout, color and font until you have something that best reflects the personality of the individual. Then click "Visualize" to see the list of words transform into a word cloud. (The site includes tutorials, if you need assistance.)

When you're satisfied with how it looks on screen, print, frame and hang the word art on your child's (and your own) bedroom door or wall.     

Tangible reminders of love and respect  

Quick and easy to create, a word cloud is more than an art piece. It can serve as a coping mechanism to settle down and calm a loved one who's feeling low. It can provide reassurance when your child needs a pick-me-up or confidence boost to counter self-criticism, self-doubt and self-destructive thoughts. It can refocus the mind to a happier, healthier place.

Best of all, simply by doing this activity strengthens family bonds and creates more meaningful connections. That's great for everyone's emotional health!

For more family activities and self-help exercises related to emotional well-being, check out Boys Town's Coping Skills Tool and our Strengths and Qualities Worksheet.

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