My kid feels different, now what?
Let's start with my personal opinion: turn that magic up high!!!
OK, let's actually reflect on it.
Have you ever been told:
You’re too loud
You’re too wild
You’re too messy
You’re too talkative
You’re too bossy
You’re too weird
You’re too _______ fill in the blank with whatever you got
Maybe as a kid. Maybe as an adult.
Maybe you’ve said that to someone else.
Maybe even your kid(s) too.
No judgement here. Been there. All scenarios.
Well, here's the deal. For most people, fitting in feels really good. It's comfortable. It's welcoming. But we are so conditioned to believe that the way we see everyone operating all day long is the way we all need to operate all day long. Then when 'different' comes along - whether we notice someone is creatively different. Neurologically different. Physically different. - we are not always accepting of difference. It can be hard for us to find positive aspects in difference; in other’s and in ourselves. And in my opinion, this is where acceptance of difference begins.
When we learn to embrace the unique, wonderful, weird qualities within ourselves, we can then and only then accept and support difference in others.
In my previous life, I was in the PR world, where you were running around trying hard to think outside the box, be different, make noise and get everyone to listen. I wanted to run campaigns that connected to people, but that were a little offside so that the media would get into it. In my early years as a PR intern, I picked up a book called “Normal Gets You Nowhere” by Kelly Cutrone. Quick read to empower the next generation of young PR professionals. And while there weren't a ton of takeaways from her or this book that I like to call upon, one thing did stand out over the years and it was this: non-conformity is also normal. Sometimes the simple answer to difference is knowing that the box was meant to be broken, stepped on and coloured outside of.
As an adult you can gain this perspective. While oftentimes still difficult, you can lean into your weird as a personal brand-stamp. One that opens doors and connects you to your happiness, when you embrace it fully.
But that learnt lesson does not come easily.
For the most part, our life is spent being told what to do, not to do, and what’s right from wrong. The powerful force of conformity happens when we are young, but it continues on as we are older too, which is why I believe that there comes a time when everyone needs someone – a parent, mentor, teacher, counselor, friend – to encourage them to be real with themselves and own their wacky, bright light within. And yep, we all have it.
So, here are some mindful ways to empower your 'different' kid when their magic starts to shine!
Expose! Expose! Expose! Read stories, get into the news, and let your child explore what they feel connected to. Maybe they want to see someone that looks like them. Maybe they need to see behaviour or actions that relate to their personal character traits. Show them that there is a world beyond what they see in their day-to-day lives, if it does not connect to who they are on the inside.
Social media can be a tool for good, if used to story tell with guidance. There are a lot of topics addressed positively that you can expose your child to; and bonus, you can bring up the topic to media messages and empower them to take control of their newsfeed.
Allow for difference. Give your child space to be different. If they are interested in something unique, lean into it. If they want to know more about a topic, genre or activity, give them your support without judgement or pressure. If they want to be loud and messy, take them somewhere that aligns with that. If they have physical diversities, connect them with others that are alike.
And remember, this is important, not everything your child does needs to be done as a lesson or with an end-goal in mind. Sometimes hobbies can just be done to have fun and feel connected.
Find inner power. There is a lot of power and creativity that comes from being 'different' or 'weird.' Help your child identify how their unique trait or interest can be their asset. Call out where and how this asset can be used - for themselves and maybe even for others, as a force of good. Even role play how they can amplify this trait in different social situations. Empower them to embrace their difference as their power not see it as a limit or lack.
Trust. A lot of what we do as parents is try to control the outcome for our ‘different’ children. With so much love we try to help, protect, support and mange the outcome for our kiddos. Who wants to see our children suffer - um, no one! But I say this from experience, a lot of it, in the end all they need is our trust. Trust that they will have the guidance within them to find their own way. So what can we do? We can see them as happy now. And let our presence and energy show up for them with love.
Use mantras. When in doubt, especially as the mind wires into a negative spin, repeat mantras or quotes that remind us that difference should be celebrated. Here are a few I love.