Kids are all different! We should let them be who they are. My daughter recently celebrated her 12th birthday. She’s so confident and so secure in herself, which blows my mind, because I was the complete opposite at 12. I remember feeling so uncomfortable all the time. I would constantly second guess myself, I was afraid of being different, and puberty terrified me. My daughter doesn’t seem to let anything bother her. She’s coasting through puberty and just riding with the changes. I don’t like to ever take credit for how she is, because she is such a bright light that I would never do anything to dim. So, for the sake of this article, I will just share some things that I’ve done that have helped us get here.
Once I became I parent, I have always tried to be conscious of how I felt as a child. I think this has helped me become the best parent I can be. I use the good and replace the bad with something positive. I try to give support in all the areas that I didn’t receive support and I try to be as open as I can be to making my children feel safe and comfortable in our relationship. Lastly, I never stop trying to get to know them. They are each their own person, and I want them to allow me into who they are while also modeling positive behaviors for them to pick up on. I don’t believe it’s my job to make them into who I think they should be.
My daughter is super creative and artistic. She loves to express herself through her clothing and artwork. Most days I have no clue how she’s going to walk out of the house. She has put together some very loud and wild outfits, but that’s just her. If I’m being honest, it’s not always easy for me to just go with it. There have been times when I’ve questioned how she looks, but in those moments, I must think about the positive that comes out of supporting who she is. I also have to check in with myself to see why it bothers me in the first place. I strongly believe that it’s hard for a lot of parents to do this, and it’s simply out of protection. We don’t want the words or looks of others to hurt them, so we try to protect them by making sure they blend in. Honestly, we just end up becoming the ones to hurt them first. What we say becomes their inner voice. We must be very careful, that’s why I choose to keep my comments to myself and lift who she is.
As I shared, I remember all the negative feelings that I had as a preteen. Puberty was the absolute worst! I knew as my daughter was coming of age, I wanted to make her as comfortable with the process as I could. We actually started discussing puberty around 9 years old. I promise we have probably read every single period book together. We talked about all of the things to expect, and what to do in certain situations. We have also discussed how to support other girls if they need us. I think by talking about it so much, it just became normal. As her body changes and she becomes a little lady, nothing surprises her, and she is just so comfortable.
When raising children, I also think it’s very important to discuss body image. One of my favorite books for this is entitled, “Bodies are Cool”, by Tyler Feder. The best way to help children grow up, to love their bodies, is by talking about all types of bodies. Letting them know that everybody is beautifully and uniquely created for each person. I always stressed this, especially for my daughter because we know how there is so much pressure on what you look like as a girl or woman. When I was my daughter’s age I was shaped just like her: long and skinny. My body wasn’t as filled out as most of my friends and I was super insecure about it. I remember trying to force myself to eat beyond comfort to gain weight and not wanting to wear shorts because my legs were so skinny. I never wanted my daughter to have any kind of body insecurities. I’m very proud to say that she is so secure in herself and her body. She even tries to help other girls her age feel the same way. She loves reciting affirmations and speaking them to other girls.
Although I don’t like to take credit for who she is, I am happy to share how I’ve supported my daughter. I share these things, because there may be a parent struggling with letting their child express themselves. There may be a parent who is already noticing some negative traits in their child when it comes to confidence or body insecurity. Parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual, so we must be able to lean on each other for support. I hope this helps you to get to know your child or to simply let them be who they are.