Often, the thing that kids want more than anything is to fit in. As parents, we see our children as unique individuals, each with their own special gifts and traits that set them apart from the crowd, and we take pride in their beauty, intelligence, and skills.
To them, those differences are nothing to be proud of. They just want to blend in.
Helping our children to not only accept themselves, but to celebrate their unique qualities, is a worthy goal. In today’s society, kids all too often look to magazine covers for examples of what to look like, and they emulate actors, athletes, and popular musicians.
Unfortunately, they are too young to realize that none of what they are seeing is real. It is our job to help them learn.
“I am different.”
Teens, pre-teens, and even younger children sometimes berate themselves because they see themselves as “different.”
They wish to look like supermodels, with their long, lean bodies and complete lack of body fat. If not a supermodel, they at least hope to look like the most popular kid in their class. It is important to assure children that they are loved, lovable, and acceptable, just as they are.
Eating disorders among young people are at an all time high, and it is not just the girls who suffer.
Boys, too, feel pressure to be lean and athletic, and when they feel that they don’t measure up, can experience bouts of depression and low self-esteem.
One of the best things that we can do as parents is to let our children know that although the images they see on magazines may look perfect to them, they are not real. That even the people shown in the glossy photos don’t actually look like that.
Kids need to know that the pictures are almost always touched up to shave off a few pounds and give the illusion of a flawless complexion.
That even their favorite celebrities wear glasses, have frizzy hair, and sometimes wake up with a giant pimple right in the middle of their foreheads.
That Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Daisy Fuentes, and Venus Williams all wore braces. That the so-called, “beautiful people” are just like them, with imperfections as well as beauty.
Although you cannot reasonably tell your children that it doesn’t matter how people look (the world will tell them differently, and unfortunately, they will probably believe it), you can help them to accept themselves and to learn to love the things that make them different.
A healthy attitude and strong self-esteem come from learning to celebrate your own unique talents.
As parents, it is our job to help our children to appreciate their gifts and to focus on the ways that they excel.
Bright students with scientific minds need to be encouraged and honoured for their innovative thinking.
Good readers and creative writers must be taught that their skills are valuable, more so than having great hair or a perfect smile.
Those who are musical or artistic have much to offer and should be persuaded to express themselves through their craft.
The important thing is that children, like the rest of us, need to see themselves as more than a compilation of their body parts.
Even the most beautiful people will someday age and their looks will fade.
By encouraging children to develop their talents and realize that there is more to them than what they see in the mirror, we give them the ability to truly be happy with themselves.
“Everyone is different.”
Assure your children that they are not the only ones who feel “different.” Everyone feels that way now and then, especially during childhood and the teen years.
Let them know that those popular kids that they envy so much probably have some of the same feelings of self doubt that they do.
And those gorgeous supermodels? At one time, many of them undoubtedly felt “different.”
They were probably the tallest, skinniest, and most gawky kids in their classes.
But by accepting themselves, they made the most of their differences and found success.
Your kids can do the same. Let them know that the things that make them different are often the best things about them.
So celebrate being different — it’s what makes you, you!