You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think.
– A.A. Milne/Christopher Robin
Making sure that children grow up to feel secure, confident and creative requires understanding and affection on the part of adults in their lives. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But sometimes we behave in ways that cause misunderstandings. Girls and boys can be hurt emotionally without us knowing it.
Children want to be reassured. They need sturdy relationships and quality time with family.
Look to your children, nieces, grandsons and other youngsters around you and think about your interactions with each and every one of them. What you do or don’t do may affect them more than you realize.
Okay, before you throw darts at me, hear me out. I don’t have kids. I decided at the age of eight not to become a parent. So what right do I have to post a blog on this topic?
My right comes from having been a child and from vividly remembering events both good and bad. Stuff that affected my self-esteem, my ability to interact, my capacity for trust: long story, but yes, I truly believe I have the right to give advice based on being on the receiving end of myriad comments, broken promises, evident body language and thoughtless behaviours. I firmly believe in what I’m saying. This is Part 1 of what I intend will be various topics I hope will remind us all to nurture the children and teenagers in our lives. (I welcome thoughts from you.)
Help young people develop self-esteem, so that they feel good about themselves
Show an abundance of love and acceptance:
This does not only mean hugs when they return from school or driving them to their hockey game, or buying the birthday gift they asked for. After all, other adults likely hug them as well, their friends’ parents drive them to games too, and they get birthday presents from other people.
So, by love and acceptance, I’m talking about something else. I mean individual interaction and eye contact, alone time with just you and no other siblings present, an hour here and there where a child has your complete attention…times when they will feel like the centre of your world, like they’re very important in your life, and feel that you are listening – really hearing – every single thing they’re telling you, whether it’s an issue troubling them or whether it’s a mundane story of what they ate in the school cafeteria.
One thing that damaged me as a child was favouritism. I was made to feel second-best and that I had to give way to the needs and wants of children who appeared to be way more important than I was. I don’t mean the usual sibling rivalry that children feel periodically, I’m talking about being made to give way to another child’s wants, almost all the time.
Do think about similar behaviours that single out one child as a favourite and another who is not. It may be something you’re not aware of at all, perhaps a habitual action, maybe paying more attention to a child that has difficulty with schoolwork, but there are actions that cause misunderstandings, especially for young minds.
Such treatment, whether real or perceived, can have lasting repercussions on a left-out child. He or she can grow up to be deeply resentful of a sibling seen to be favoured or may lack self-esteem and become withdrawn in social settings. She or he might not make much effort at school, because “what’s the point, nothing I do is as good as stuff my brother does.” And so on and on.
Please do not underestimate the damage to children who don’t feel they have love and acceptance; that is, equal love and acceptance…for who they are, and their unique abilities. Although we interact with children based on their personalities, all of which are different…the one element we can keep the same is the amount of specific attention and time we spend with each one.
One-on-one time with each child can go a long way.