Ways to Encourage and Celebrate Your Child's Uniqueness
One of the most amazing aspects of parenting is watching your child grow from a tiny, helpless infant to a full-fledged child full of opinions, ideas, preferences, style, and quirks. #celebrateuniqueness #selfesteem #healthychildren #hoffstettercounseling
Yes, sometimes we probably wish our vibrant, defiant preschooler would revert back to their rosy-cheeked baby self, but the truth is, watching your child grow into themselves is a true gift, no matter how exacerbating it can be at times.
All children are unique in their own ways, and one of our top jobs as parents is to nurture those qualities in our children that make them who they are. It’s not as easy as it sounds, especially because life is full of challenges. Yet in so many ways, it’s simpler than we think—and the rewards are infinite.
How Kids’ Personalities Are Formed
Experts agree that a child’s personality doesn’t fully form until they are in elementary school. It’s around then that it becomes clear whether your child has more introverted or extroverted tendencies, how open they are to new experiences, what their creative minds look like, and how much of an organized (or terribly disorganized!) approach they take to life.
Your child’s personal style, interests, and passions may start to form at that age—though it may not be till the tween or teen years that you find out if you are raising a true sports fanatic, a bonafide bookworm, a tech whiz, or a theater lover.
At the same time, almost any parent will tell you that their child’s “essence” or temperament was apparent pretty soon after they were born.
While our personality is shaped by things like parenting methods, adversity, and socioeconomic status, the core of who we are—and what makes each of our “vibes” unique—is often something we were born with. Mothers will often say that they “knew” who their children were in the womb!
Benefits of Embracing Your Child’s Uniqueness
Although there is certainly some influence we parents can have on who our children ultimately become, the essence of who your child is isn’t actually something that can be changed very much.
Realizing this is a lightbulb moment for many parents who may be trying to push their child be something they are not—or something they, as parents, wish their child would be.
The truth is, as uncomfortable as it can sometimes be, embracing your child for who they are is one of the greatest gifts you can give.
Here are some of the top benefits of embracing your child's uniqueness:
Bonding and Self-Confidence
Not only will it strengthen your bond with your child, but it will give your child the confidence they need to take that personality and share it with the rest of the world.
Fortitude to Make a Difference
A child who is loved for who they are—differences and all—is a child who can show up in their life with courage, mental strength, and the wherewithal to make the world a better place.
Strength to Face Adversity
They will be better suited to face challenges from others, because as awful as it is to think about, your child will encounter cruelty and intolerance at some point in life.
Tolerance for Others
Raising children with a foundation of trust and self-esteem will help them weather any storm they find themselves up against—and it will allow them to embrace others’ differences with the same level of acceptance.
How to Help Your Child Embrace Their Uniqueness
Nurturing your child’s true spirit is actually easier than you think—and a lot of it has to do with things that you should stop doing, because nurturing your child’s inner-self means stepping back and letting them shine for who they are.
Allow Your Child to Select Their Own Extracurricular Activities
Yes, you may have pictured your child in Little League, or as a piano superstar, but sometimes what you imagined for your child is not where their heart is leading them.
Each child has their own unique gifts. Allow them the autonomy to find the find the activities that suit their style.
Let Your Child Dress Themselves (as Much as Possible)
This is a hard one, especially since appearances mean so much to many of us. But one simple way to let your child’s uniqueness shine is by giving them a say in picking out their wardrobe and dressing themselves.
Each kid has their own personal style, and letting them dress themselves is a great way to promote positive self-expression.
Encourage Body Autonomy
Your child’s body belongs to them and them alone. This is a powerful lesson, not just in the name of nurturing your child’s uniqueness, but also in terms of protecting their personal safety.
As much as possible, let your child decide what happens to their body—what they wear, eat, who they interact with and how they interact with them.
Give Your Child a Safe Space to Express Their Feelings
No one wants to let a child scream for 45 minutes about eating green beans, but at the same time, if something is upsetting your child—no matter how senseless it seems to you—you always want your child to know that you take their feelings seriously.
Because the next time they are crying about something, it might be something much more serious than green beans, and you want your child to feel that you are a safe person for them to share their feelings with.
View Your Child’s Mistakes as Learning Opportunities
Even when your child messes up—especially then—you’ve got to help them see the lesson that can be learned. Shame and guilt are not helpful when your child messes up.
True growth comes from learning from your mistakes and finding the positive in even the most difficult circumstances.
Work on Your Own Self-Esteem Issues
We don’t realize how much our children look to us as a model for how to live life. If you are always criticizing yourself, pointing out your own flaws, and not being willing to embrace your own differences, your child will take that to heart.
Becoming a parent is a great opportunity to work on your own “stuff”—and in doing so, you will be helping your child become the best version of themselves possible.
Embrace Your Child’s Differences, But Don’t Swoop in to Change Them
We parents don’t always mean to, but it’s easy to see our child’s differences and want to push them toward conformity. It’s not always easy to raise a child who looks, sounds, or acts differently than what we think is acceptable, or what society deems as “normal.”
If you are the parent of an extra special, standout kid, celebrate this difference. Accept them for who they are and let them shine.
How to Nurture Your Child’s Uniqueness During Times of Crisis
Any parent will tell you that the past few months have been a particularly challenging time for our kids due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
School-age kids were suddenly thrust into distance learning. Playdates became a thing of the past. Life as kids knew it changed overnight.
As difficult as this all was for our kids, though, many of us have seen them become their most resilient selves. We’ve seen our kids learn to connect with others through different mediums (Zoom playdates for the win!), and we’ve seen them learn to bond in new and different ways with their siblings and with us—their trusty parents.
As much as we wish it weren’t so, the coronavirus pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon. Even as restrictions begin to lift in some places, life as we know it far from “back to normal.”
As difficult as this may be for our kids, and as worried as we parents understandably are, a crisis like this is still a wonderful opportunity for self-reflection, self-growth, and a time to nurture our children’s most unique selves.
Mask wearing may not be fun for kids, but you can teach them the beauty of making sacrifices for the greater good, and how we can each contribute to the good of society in our own, special ways.
Masks come in many different colors and styles—let your child pick one that suits their unique look.
Nurture your budding scientist or doctor’s dreams—show them the amazing frontline workers and scientists who are working tirelessly every day to keep us safe, now and in the future.
Sports and other extracurriculars may be canceled in some places, or may look very different than they once were, but that doesn’t mean your child’s dreams and goals are on hold. Zooming or practicing social distance may be different, but can be an opportunity to teach your child about what can be accomplished even in times of change and upheaval.
Now’s a good time to try new things with your child that you never would have considered before. Got a budding chef, gardener, writer, or artist? Try out hobbies that can be done from home.
Technology and online living isn't always a bad thing. Maybe you have filmmaker or actor in the midst. Teaching your child self-expression through different mediums can spark creativity.
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