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» A Culture that Engages Every Family, Steven M. Constantino, Ed.D.

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5 Ways to Help Kids Accept Being "Different"

By Jane Bongato, M.A., Guest Blogger

DifferentBeing comfortable with our gender, race, personality, appearance, or abilities is something that most people struggle with well into adulthood. So it’s no wonder kids feel insecure about traits or characteristics that are perceived as “different.”

Everyone is different, because no two people are ever exactly alike. But there are certain things that can cause kids to feel singled out or alone.

Being the only child of a certain race in a classroom or school, having glasses or braces, being taller or shorter than most kids their age, or having a learning disability are only few of the many things that may cause a child to be left out.

While no one really enjoys being the odd one out, having a strong support system at home and being exposed to various cultural, racial and physical differences early on can help a child feel more comfortable with and accept their differences.

Here are five tips on ways to help children develop self-confidence and embrace who they are from a young age. 

1. Encourage Children to Think for Themselves

Teach your child that no situation is ever black or white, that there are different ways to perceive each situation – and different solutions that are equally correct.

Rather than telling them what to do, encourage your children to think about situations for themselves and come to their own conclusions. Of course, they still need your guidance and instruction, but allowing them to think about things on their own from time to time can help them trust their intuition and learn to think more critically.

Showing them that they have the ability to make their own choices and influence certain situations without outside help can build confidence.

2. Share Your Family Roots

Knowing where you come from and understanding your roots is one of the best ways to understand and come to terms with who you are today. This is equally true for children.

Talk about your family history, heritage and cultural background. Teach them about their grandparents and great grandparents, about their language, country’s customs and how they came to live in the place they do now.

Having a clear understanding of their roots will give them a strong foundation and help them to feel more comfortable with who they are.

3. Learn About Different Cultures and Lifestyles

One of the reasons why kids can be so judgmental when it comes to people they see as different from themselves is that they have had little or no exposure to the many cultures and lifestyles from around the world.

They don’t understand that there are whole continents where people look differently, eat differently and act differently than people in their own hometown. Help your child understand that there are differences but that these differences are a good thing because they bring diversity and change.

Take them traveling, read books and magazines with them, take them to museums and cultural events and ensure that they have a well-rounded perspective of the world today.

4. Introduce Positive Role Models

When children are insecure or shy about some physical feature like their height, weight, accent or color of skin, help them find positive role models with similar characteristics. However, this doesn’t mean that you should ignore their concerns or brush it off as something they will grow out of.

Take the time to discuss their worries and why they feel insecure about themselves. Help them to focus on their strong points and think of ways to help them improve or at least feel more comfortable with the things they don’t like about themselves.  Talk about how positive role models overcame challenges and coped with adversity.

5. Reinforce Good Body Language

Body language tells others a lot about your self-esteem and also plays a big part in how they will treat you.  Slumping your shoulders and avoiding eye contact gives off an air of disinterest or insecurity, while standing up straight and looking people in the eye when talking shows enthusiasm and confidence.

Encourage your child to maintain good posture and carry themselves with confidence; not only will this help others to accept them more readily, but it will also help them feel more in control and comfortable with who  they are.


Image Credit: Charamelody

Posted on January 6, 2013 by Jane Bongato, M.A., Guest Blogger

Jane BongatoJane Bongato, M.A. is part of the team behind Open Colleges, Australia’s leading provider of
child care and counselling courses.  She is an early childhood educator with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Early Childhood Education, and a Master's Degree in Special Education. She regularly writes about child care, parenting and counseling related topics. You can find her on Google+ or follower her on twitter.

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(www.ParentInvolvementMatters.org does not handle reprint requests. For permission to reprint articles, please contact the author directly.)

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