“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” – E. E. Cummings
Today is Youth Day in South Africa, a reminder for us to honour the bravery that it takes for children to grow up. For some children growing up takes more courage than for others. Unfortunately we still live in a world where many children have to overcome great difficulties simply to reach adulthood. As adults, we have a responsibility to help change this.
We also have a responsibility to support children to become their authentic selves. Becoming who you truly are always requires courage. It is a task that most of us will be working on for our entire lives.
This process of becoming more authentic, more real, more of who we truly are, can be difficult. This is why we need to support each other – and especially our children – during this process of becoming.
Helping children become their authentic selves
There are many different ways of helping our children grow into their authentic selves. We need to remember that small actions can have a lot of impact, and that children are good at spotting when the actions and words of adults are not congruent. It is important for all of us to do the inner work required of us to live as our own authentic selves, so that we can set an example for the next generation.
When it comes to supporting a child on their journey of becoming who they really are, I think the following three ideas offer a good place to start:
1. Love them exactly as they are
Don’t try to change your child into something that he/she is not. Talk to your child in a loving way – even when things don’t go according to plan. It is important to also model self-acceptance – so remember to speak lovingly to and of yourself as well.
2. Allow them to feel their feelings
Validate your child’s feelings and allow them to feel their heavy feelings as well as the light ones. There is no such thing as a negative emotion – as humans we need to feel the full spectrum of emotions, even when it is inconvenient.
3. Respect their boundaries, and teach them to accept the boundaries of others
As children grow older, it is important for them to be able to express their boundaries with others around them. As far as the safety of a situation allows, respect your child’s boundaries. It can also help to have loving conversations with them about your own boundaries. This will help them to understand and respect the boundaries of others.
Permission to be unapologetically yourself!
By giving ourselves permission to be unapologetically ourselves, we give the same permission to every person – child and adult – around us. I can only marvel at the magic that such untamed potential might bring to the world. We need to protect, nurture and support the unique qualities in our children, to help them grow into their fullest realisation of themselves.