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Everyday Strong: Give your children room to become themselves

By Michaelann Gardner - Special to the Daily Herald | May 14, 2022

Matt Rourke, Associated Press

Students wearing mask as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus line up to receive KN95 protective masks at Camden High School in Camden, N.J., Feb. 9, 2022.

Safety to be you is a concept that helps children thrive. Everybody needs fulfillment and recognition in their unique abilities and talents in order to know what makes you, you! In other words, being safe makes you feel confident enough to be different from everybody else.

When your child is able to feel safe to be themselves, it helps them be more resistant to peer pressure. They don’t let others persuade them to engage in unsafe practices like unsafe sex or drinking. In addition, they are more resistant to bullying. As they are able to be true to themselves they know what will help them be successful and what will hinder that success.

When a child has developed this sense of individuality, they are able to make their own decisions whether they are being peer pressured or not. With that being said, they are able to understand that they are the ones in control of their decision making — not those around them. Your child has the power to set those boundaries and stay true to themselves.

Even though your child is able to resist bullying and peer pressure, they are able to make long lasting friendships. They have a strong sense of feeling loved and are able to make choices, both in friendships and romantic relationships. They make the choices that are consistent with their identity.

Children, however, face difficulties being themselves. They are afraid of not being loved or being judged. What are some of the common signs that your child does not feel safe to be themselves. They typically avoid eye contact. They are non-verbal. They begin to shut down. You can also notice if they talk negatively. It would typically be focused around themselves, but any negative talk, in partnership with any of the other signs, can be utilized to determine if you child is afraid of being themselves.

Bad signs are important to acknowledge, but what are some of the good signs indicating that your child feels safe to be themselves? One sign includes being confident. Another is being decisive. A child who feels safe to be themselves will also be value driven. A child who is able to carry on conversations demonstrates a confidence that they feel safe to be themselves. Good signs are just as important as noticing the bad signs!

With good and bad signs, you can also be a part of your child’s growth towards becoming comfortable being different. One approach is by changing the way you speak to your child. For example, sentence starters are the beginning of allowing your child to feel safe to talk to you. Express curiosity. Ask them how they are feeling. Validate their feelings. Don’t turn their feelings away or make them seem insignificant.

Another way to help your child be comfortable in their own skin is by noticing their characteristics, rather than whether they are good or bad at something. It shouldn’t matter how well they perform at the dance show or soccer tournament, what matters is that they did their best and their efforts should not go unnoticed.

Finally, validate their fears. This helps them believe in themselves and create a sense of worth. Their confidence will bloom! To learn more watch Everyday Strong’s Safety Video with Kellie Byars!

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