July 10, 2018

How to nurture your child’s individuality. Help them find their gifts. 

Every summer, a few weeks before school started, my mom would take me to the store to pick out new clothes. It was always a special time for me and I looked forward to it all summer. One summer, as usual, we went to pick out my back-to-school clothes. I was 10 years old and going through a “purple” phase…I loved everything purple…I dreamt of driving around in a purple car, and living in a purple house.(thank goodness that phase passed! lol) So that day I chose all of my clothes in some shade of purple. I was beyond excited!

When we got home, my grandmother was waiting to see what we had picked out. As I began pulling out purple garment after purple garment my grandmother stared in disbelief. She pulled my mother aside to ask her why she let me chose only purple clothes! My mom looked confused and responded…”because she liked it”.

It’s interesting what you remember as an adult looking back at your childhood. For some reason that day is a very vivid memory. Today I understand why. That day, I made choices and my opinion mattered. I felt respected. My mom was great at encouraging my individuality.

As a parent, it is challenging at times to allow a child to pick and choose what they want to wear, what they want to do, etc. Often it is tempting to gently encourage something else to wear or perhaps hint that there may be a better choice. What’s the harm though? Some things are worth a redirection but many things do not.

One of my favorite things to see is the child skipping through the halls in full costume at the grocery store. It always makes me smile.  I smile, because I know they dressed themselves and they are  happy…Pure joy.

So the next time your child doesn’t match or chooses a style that is not what you like, take a step back. Does it really matter? As long as it is not inappropriate for the occasion, then just let it be. Allow your child to express his/her individuality and enjoy watching them evolve.

Life is about finding joy and happiness in the little things. Encourage your child to make choices (even if you don’t agree with them). By making choices, their enthusiasm and confidence will grow. Learning that their voice matters is one of the best gifts a parent can give. Even very young children have opinions, so take the time to listen. Help your child find who THEY want to be, not who YOU want them to be. Help them find their individuality- this is what makes them unique and ultimately happy.

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.

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