One of the most intense challenges any parent will face as their children grow and mature is the burden of teaching them tolerance in both the world and private life; something made all the more complicated by a media-driven society that portrays a continuous argument between expressing individuality but still maintaining a healthy group identity. A healthy relationship with your children can help you guide them through the obstacles of growing up while providing them with the support system they need to prosper.
The struggle parents face today–in a world so different from the one their generation knew—is very different from their own childhood. Nurturing a child’s needs is unique for each person. We all have our strong points, weak points and susceptibility. There is no relationship 100% alike.
Being Different Isn’t a Bad Thing
Between wanting to please family, who may still carry traditional views, fighting to feel like part of the group with friends who may all have vastly different viewpoints, and still searching for what makes them unique from everyone else; many children get lost in the tangled task.
In the pursuit of togetherness, the world has grown obsessed with the idea that each person is unlike the rest, but still needs to respect all differences and find a sense of kinship to others in spite of those differences. People have to juggle both having their own opinions, but also knowing that the outlook of others may drastically contrast, and that it is acceptable and not negative.
Bullying Is Common
Bullies now need only to go to one of many sites online to find dozens of outlets to carry on their teasing, and often these outlets are shared between peers so the old act of spreading rumors in the hallways has taken on a wider scope of cyber rumors that do not fade in time but stay written in black and white. From this can stem self-doubts and body image issues, uncertainty over friends and a feeling of being alone in the world; all very damaging to a developing child.
The thin line to walk is trying to explain to children what is too much to share without limiting so much that they feel as though they have to guard themselves so much they are alienated from their peers. Building a tough skin has become a necessity for life, but trying to keep a child from losing their empathy in the process is the goal. Sometimes the best solution is the simplest; a reminder that kindness is paid in turn and that people need to treat each other better than they may be treated at times.
Whereas years ago people would only speak in hushed tones, if at all, of sexuality or alternative lifestyles it is now common to see in the media examples nearly daily of people not only comfortable with but proud of their differences. Standing out has become the marker of a likable person; gone are the days where modesty was a trait instilled from early on.
· Now being too modest or quiet sets a child apart and they lose their voice in the crowd.
· The vivid is the new popular, the online world is filled with examples of youngsters making a mark early on by showcasing themselves on popular video sites; giving rise not only to confidence fueled by the praise of strangers but also painful rejection by the same.
This shift in social acceptance is a blazing example of how far people have come and a positive, but it can also be a factor that leads to self-examination in children that their parents may not have experience in dealing with. Now it is not enough to be praised at home, children grow up idolizing their peers and not their elders, and when they may not meet the same standards it can be devastating.
It is now possible for children to see for themselves in flat numbers the amount of people who like them and to compare to other people; the need to be noticed has become an obsession in some case and a part of the social hierarchy. A wave of new social labels has cropped up in the wake of shared information; there is a spot for anyone to fit into and old stigmas have become badges of honor instead.
An intelligent child can find admiration for their brilliance and an awkward one is deemed charming and sweet for their sensitivity; the world has learned to embrace the best of people and hold them in esteem for them; which is easily the best part of what children are offered in their quest to find themselves in the static of the technological world.
Kidshealth.org, a popular site that addresses concerns about both the physical and emotional development of children, notes that many children are ahead of their parents in understanding that people come from different backgrounds and lifestyles. In a study dealing with tolerance, the site pointed out that when it comes to children ‘Their circle of friends, their schoolmates, and their athletic teams are much more varied than those of even a generation ago.’ the site suggests; a notion that as much as parents race to reach an equal standings they may always be one step behind regardless of how much they try to embrace new ideas.
Many children may already have their own concepts of identity that the parents simply have to try to steer in a healthy direction.
· Intensity, revealing clothing and experimentation in drug use are the age-old worries of parents; but the modern culture often writes these off as rite of passage and part of the paces of growing up.
· Trying to combat the negatives often pushes parents to frustration but it is important to remember that a part of growing up is experimentation, even if the world now grants teenagers a wider spectrum of how to indulge that need.
· Arguments turn circular and anger is a common problem but at the base of it all remains a child that desperately seeks validation and support; at times firm reminders of the negatives and positive reinforcement that the family will always be there to offer advice may really be the only way to navigate the rocky road to discovery.
· Children listen, even if it seems otherwise at times, to what their family says; and it can be a crushing blow to feel alone when their choices are discarded or questioned too firmly. Part of finding a sense of who they are is in knowing who they have been in the face of family identity.
· Every child is first a daughter or a son, a brother or sister, and from this comes their first lessons in both support and defeat. Often, as they are developing, children reference back to those first relationship lessons; the warmth and comfort of a nurturing parent or the support of a sibling, to keep them steady in their conviction that they can achieve the things they want in life.
Wide-known advice site, Parents.com, offers that even as early as the pre-teen stage children are trying to find themselves amid the chaos of their own lives and the changes in their bodies; parents are not wrong in saying no when the situation calls for it but they can do so in a way that supports rather than condescends. ‘When they’re feeling overwhelmed, they’ll often take it out on you. Still, you need to make it clear that you won’t tolerate being treated with disrespect. “Say to your child, ‘I want to hear what you have to say, but it’s not okay to raise your voice,’ an article on the site explains; encouraging children to express their needs but to do so in a way that both shows and earns them respect will serve them better than lashing out.
Finding a Middle Ground
Finding the midpoint between teaching values and giving children room to explore can leave many parents holding their breath over the choices made. Parents need to keep in mind that the world teaches their children just as much as they can, and that to give their child a strong foundation. It is dire that they continue to grow and learn new ways of acceptance themselves. The old standard has given way to progress and self-exploration both open and encouraged, sense of self has become the most valuable asset society can offer and the shift from being part of the to being a whole person is an insight that parents can cultivate in their children with confidence.
Even if reaching it may be trial and error it is a road best traveled together and in the end there is no greater gift than the freedom a child gains in knowing how to be comfortable in one’s own skin.