by Laurie Hollman, Ph.D.
It’s so valuable to identify the uniqueness of your child. Then they feel accepted, loved, and wanted by you. While children long to belong and fit in with their peers, it’s the parent’s actual acceptance that gives them the security they need. Then “fitting in” and being like others loses its power.
If you reflect carefully you will notice that your child has certain qualities that make him or her unique. While most kids go through similar stages, all kids are different in the ways they adapt to the changes in their cognitive growth, bodily changes, and personality development. They also adapt differently to various environments that they are exposed to including home, school, and extra-curricular activities.
How to Think About the Uniqueness of Your Child
Think about how you would describe your child to yourself. Consider in depth their emotional being. What are they sensitive to and what do they brush off as unimportant? How do they fare with both humor and more intense concerns? Do they articulate themselves easily or must we be sensitive to the messages sent off by their behavior?
Some kids have a facility with words and are very verbal, others less so. But what do they express? Can they share emotions as well as practical daily matters? Do they come to you with problems or do they keep themselves close to the vest?
Are they open with what excites them or do you need to take the initiative in learning what inspires them? Do they understand the notion of feeling inspired or do you need to explain to them how different people focus on different choices of activities that motivate them? Help them understand how their peers are similar and different from them in their choices and let them know that that’s just fine.
What is your child’s general disposition or temperament? Are they always full of energy or more laid back or somewhere in between? Do they know that you are aware of these qualities and that you accept them?
How to Learn What is Important to Your Child
You will create a special bond with your child if they know you are interested in what’s important to them. We often take for granted that they know that we are aware of what interests them. But do we talk about it, so they know we appreciate what gives them pleasure or dissatisfaction with themselves?
Lots of conversations with your kids about what occurs in their daily lives is valuable to building the parent-child relationship. Sympathize with their frustrations without having to solve their problems for them. Just discuss what’s on their minds and see the way they come to solutions. If they want advice, surely give it, but not right off. Learn first what their thoughts and feelings are about a given topic.
Nighttime is when defenses are down. They may want to talk more at that time than right after school. Leave enough leeway time in the evening bedtime routine to be able to chat with your child. Before reading to them, the frequent bed time activity, ask them what was important to them in their day? They may not have thought about their day in this way, so it builds their capacity to get to know themselves better, just as you are getting to know them, too. Try not to interrupt them when their words are flowing by asking lots of questions, though a question now and then may deepen what they are telling you. But if you interrupt too often this may steer them away from what’s most significant to them. You also might then paraphrase some of what they’ve said, so they know you really get it.
Accepting Your Child’s Uniqueness Builds Self-Esteem
Ultimately a parent’s approval of their unique child helps their child accept themselves and develop in their own way at their own pace. When they know you value and accept their personal qualities it builds their sense of self and fosters positive self-esteem. As your child grows your acceptance of them builds your relationship and brings you closer together in positive rewarding ways.