When you’re a child, it is only fitting to behave just like the others — ranging from having the same neat lunchbox to similarly cool clothes and interest in the same games and same friends! Naturally there can only be so many cool kids and your own child may not be considered so ‘cool’ by his or her peers.
Daily in school our children face peers that can be wonderful, friendly, nice and inviting — or rejecting, insulting, bullying, fowl-mouthed, ill-mannered or just plain nasty.
Of course, there are children who are simply different, with different interests and who do not fit in with their peers. Then there is the other end of the stick – the recognisable ‘cool’ kid who all the others want to be friends with or be like. But too often, these ‘cool’ children have to display either extraordinary wit, personality, intelligence, athletic prowess ... or their parents have to own the largest house in town or the flashiest car.
This class conscious culture is inappropriate but it is real for children nowadays and must at least be recognized by parents and teachers.
As a parent I think it is only right that we recognise these flaws in our society and raise our children to be equipped and prepared to deal with them. A child from a very early age must feel appreciated enough to be proud of who they are regardless of whether they are a little fatter, slower, quieter or even disabled.
It’s important for parents to preach to their children that looks definitely do not make the person, and to encourage their children to embrace diversity in race, religion as well as body shape. In addition, parents need to walk the talk, to develop friendships with others who may not conform to the mainstream stereotype. Even as we teach our children to be open minded we should also as adults embrace diversity in our circles- that is, include people with different interests, body shape, economic status, etc. Be sure that whatever you do, your children are watching and are mindful of your attitude and how you respond and treat others.
A few lessons from those that raised me
•Be a good listener. When your child seems upset (teary, remote, moody), talk, question and listen. Let your son know that you understand how difficult it is to sit on the sidelines. Your daughter will cheer up a bit if she knew that you, too, had difficulty fitting in with the other girls at times in your childhood, or had trouble fitting into the stylish clothes that peers were wearing.
•Continue to encourage and to focus upon the positive things about your child —intellectual curiosity, kindness to animals, great sense of humour and kind heart.
Let your child be the fine example to his or her peers. Have a frank discussion with your children about how to help peers who are struggling socially in school. Encourage friendships with these kids.
It’s certainly not easy being a child (or parent) today so listen and be communicative and supportive. Develop a game plan to help your child feel better physically and emotionally. And don’t give up!