Here we are, launching from the year past into the new ahead. And, we have arrived at the fifth and final month of our series on "Emoticon Realty: Building emotional health in children." We have discussed the building blocks: sense of security, affection, self-esteem and importance. Our last block, acceptance, will be firmly attached when the prior blocks are healthily cemented in place.
It seems as if the previous four blocks would ensure this fifth block, acceptance, being naturally present. This is not the case. All five blocks interlock and depend on each other for support. Parents play a pivotal role in placing the building blocks in young hearts and minds. The earlier the blocks are established, the healthier the emotions of a child and the more eloquently their personalities blossom and unfold.
Acceptance is having total self-approval. Not just in the likable components of your personality, but also in the quirky unique parts. It is about embracing differences and gaining approval for who you are, not feeling you have to measure up to a standard or another sibling. For parents, this is affirming each child and not expecting any one to be like the other.
Listen to your child. Accept they have a unique perspective and may process things differently than you. Expression of their opinion gives them credibility and fosters acceptance. Parents do not have to agree with children's opinions and thoughts, but letting them speak and share thoughts lets them be themselves and signals their significance.
Identify your child's feelings. Watch their expressions and body language to cue into feelings. Try to put yourself in their place and find the meaning behind their words. Kathy Eugster, MA, RCC, CPT-S, in her article, "Parental Acceptance" recommends asking, "I wonder how he is feeling? What is she thinking? What is he trying to tell me? I wonder why she is doing that?"
Respect your child. Acknowledge his or her feelings and thoughts. Eugster suggests, "Do this without giving suggestions, advice, disapproval or criticism, without minimizing or discounting your child's experience, or without distracting your child from his or her experience. The message sent to your child needs to be 'Yes, I understand you, I hear what you are saying, I notice what you are feeling.' It is important your child understand that you understand and respect his or her experience."
Parental Acceptance says, "I care about your feelings and thoughts. I respect your independent thoughts and experiences. I will strive to understand because you are important." Every parent needs to accept that children are not their "minis." Each person is unique adding depth and character to the home. Acceptance gives children the freedom to be themselves.
Happy Healthy New Year!
Examples of how you could respond to your child with Acceptance includes:
"It seems like you're feeling ______because______."
"It sounds like you______."
"So what you're saying is_____."
"That sounds like_____."