“The things that make me different are the things that make me… ME.”-ByPiglet from “Winnie the Pooh”
We live in an ever-expanding, diverse world that is full of people with different appearances, abilities, interests, beliefs, and cultures. One of the best things you can do to help your child navigate this wide world is to help her learn to appreciate herself and to respect the differences in others.Children who are prepared to deal with the global world of work and education need to be able to take the broad view of the world. What does this mean? It means being able to see many viewpoint and perspectives. It also means being able to listen to others and share their own ideas and perceptions. At the same time, your child needs to value all the special qualities that make her unique. This is essential to building your child’s self-esteem.
• Celebrate Our Uniqueness The best way to support your child’s sense of self and confidence is to celebrate what makes each of us unique. Have a fun family discussion about the distinctive skills and interests each member has. Perhaps Mom is a good runner, while Dad likes to cook. This type of conversation will help your child celebrate the diversity in the family.
• Make Thumb Print Pictures. As you know, there are no two fingerprints that are alike! Use a simple stamp pad with washable ink or a sponge dipped in washable paint. Invite the whole family to press their thumb or fingers on the pad and then press on paper. Compare everyone’s thumb and fingerprints. How are they the same and different? Encourage your child to use crayons or markers to make pictures with her thumb and fingerprints, too!
Build Self-Esteem and Confidence
“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.” -Winnie the Pooh
Your child’s confidence and self-awareness grows when she feels positive about herself. When your child feels confident, she likes herself and can appreciate others.Children who feel good about themselves are better able to see the differences of others without concern. Your child’s view of self influences her view of others…making it a great place to start. Celebrate her many skills so that she can celebrate those of others.
• Help Your Child Create an “All About Me” book Your child can do this project over several days and weeks with a different entry over the period of time. First, have your child a draw a self-portrait. Invite her to draw a picture of her family on the next page. Don’t forget the pets! She can create a “My Favorite Clothing” page. Your child can draw or cut out pictures of her favorite thing to wear. She can also draw her favorite food on the next page. Over time she can continue the pages for her favorite colors, shapes, book, song, movie, whatever! Finish the book by taking a photo of your child, and paste it on the cover. Help her write her name next to the photo. The book is complete!
• Celebrate your Culture. Part of what makes your child and your family special is your cultural identity. Celebrate the music, dance, art, and food of your cultural background. Talk about your ancestors. Share old photographs. Have a party to share your families “specialties” with friends.
As her sense of self grows, she can notice that other children and adults might look, speak or move differently. It is natural for children to ask questions about people who look “different”. It is how your child learns about differences! Be accepting of your child’s questions and answer them honestly and simply. Another child might seem very different at first but young children are amazingly able to see beyond difference and become friends.
Happiness is Sharing
Happiness and confidence are contagious. Have you ever noticed how the world feels different when you smile? And how people tend to lighten and smile right back at you?Share your happiness with your child. Celebrate the little things… a beautiful flower or sunset, a smile or a hug. Tell your child when you are happy and why. You can start a simple sentence by saying, “I am happy today because….” By defining and celebrating this emotion, you help her identify it in herself.
Introduce your child to the happiness of sharing with others. Perhaps it is as simple as picking a little flower to bring to her teacher, or maybe sharing a toy that she has outgrown with a younger child. In The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyumbomirsky stated, “Being kind and generous leads you to perceive others more positively and more charitably. This fosters a heightened sense of interdependence and cooperation in your social community.” We know from educational studies that the ability to share and cooperate in school is key to your child’s success in school and life.
Your young child is at a prime time to learn to be kind and generous. It is never too early to learn about sharing, helping and caring for others. You can model this as well as point out kindness and generosity when you see it. When your child shares a toy, tell her “you are being generous when you share. It feels good to share.”Sharing also raises a sense of gratitude. Studies have shown that sharing and gratitude help children and adults feel better about themselves. When children feel better about themselves, they treat others with more kindness, compassion and acceptance. Amazingly, young children can often navigate difficult situations with compassion. They can be a good model for us as adults!
As The Dalai Lama said, “Look at children. Of course they may quarrel, but generally speaking they do not harbor ill feelings as much or as long as adults do. Most adults have the advantage of education over children, but what is the use of an education if they show a smile while hiding negative feelings inside? Children don’t usual act in this manner. If they feel angry with someone, they express it and then it is finished. They can still play with that person again the next day. To me this is the honest, natural way for basic human nature to act in such situations”