When a child yells, “I don’t care!” do you wonder what’s really going on for them? Or have you felt frustrated with a child who shuts down and refuses to try? Have you ever held a child who cried but couldn’t put words to their tears? It can certainly feel helpless being there for a child in their moments of fear, anger, frustration or sadness, not really understanding how to help. All we really want is for children to be happy and successful in life, right?
The majority of the kids I work with share common themes: lacking self-love, lacking self-confidence, and feeling disconnected from themselves and others. This leads to lots of symptoms that can look different for each child: anxiety, fear, anger, poor choices at home or school, disrespect, academic struggles, shutting down, lack of motivation, avoidance, impulsivity, people pleasing, or perfectionism.
When a child doesn’t love or even know who they are, many problems and obstacles occur for them and for those who love them. I believe kids need to learn who they are at a core level in order to free themselves. We live in a society where we are too often judged by appearances, status, jobs, the house we live in or car we drive. Kids learn very early on they can define themselves by the clothes they wear, grades they get, teams they play on, friends they hang with, bikes they ride, game systems they own, phones they carry and on and on — take away those things and kids aren’t really sure who they are.
How can we expect kids to love what they don’t know?
At the core of who we all are, we are love. We are whole. We are complete. I believe deeply in my heart that kids need to hear this and learn to understand and embrace this. So often I hear (and cringe at) labels like “bad kid,” “troubled teen,” “naughty boy” or “manipulative girl.” Then there are the other labels like ADHD, ADD, OCD, ODD and the list goes on. For me, labels only keep kids, parents and teachers focused on behaviors and not on who kids are at their core. Most kids just don’t feel understood, heard, seen, accepted or loved, and they don’t know who they are without the labels.
When kids believe they are perfectly imperfect and that their uniqueness is a gift, they are freed and can begin to accept themselves. Instead of hating how sensitive they are, they can embrace the way they love more deeply and have a stronger sense of “knowing” than others. Instead of hating how they can’t sit for long periods of time, they can celebrate their ability to be creative while also listening. Instead of hating how easily they cry, they can accept this as equal to how deeply they love and feel.
When kids learn that feelings aren’t right or wrong but simply their inner guidance system that helps them navigate life, it frees them. When they start to pay attention to their inner dialogue and shift it to be more kind and loving versus judgmental and mean, it changes them. When they begin to understand that the way they talk to themselves has a huge impact on how they operate in the world, they can choose differently. They can choose happiness! They are no longer powerless, but empowered. They are no longer stuck, but confident to move forward. They are no longer alone, but connected to their true self and from there can connect to others more deeply.
Imagine our world with kids growing up empowered, confident and connected!
I know it’s possible and believe every child deserves to be accepted as the unique person they were created to be. It brings my heart such joy to witness kids beginning to love and celebrate who they are and their differences — it’s what makes this world such a beautiful place!