At some phase of life, we have all felt the desire to belong. The character of a child is so malleable that they often struggle to define themselves. Personality traits they appear to own may actually be at odds with the way they feel at their core. This leaves children believing they need to play a specific role within group settings. It is important that a child develops an authenticity of self that balances who they portray, through personal actions and the actions directed at those around them, and who they are on the inside.
Roles children often identify with or fall into inadvertently include the funny one, the studious one, or the sporty one. In an effort to fit in with their peers, children can lose track of their identity or purposefully repress their personality to fit that mold. A child’s yearning for acceptance may allow that yearning to dictate their identity. The danger lies in when a child feels as though the world only accepts them in these roles and therefore feels trapped in an identity that does not feel natural.
Individuals of any age can only play the role for so long before losing a sense of self. As a result, children may experience a lack of confidence, limited self-acceptance, and possible resentment toward friends and family. This can lead to feelings of loneliness. To avoid these feelings of confusion and frustration, children must truly believe, from the inside, what they portray on the outside. The harmony between the comfort and confidence they have while in their own company and that which they radiate in the company of others will bring a sense of self-worth that is immeasurable.
- Be curious. Ask your child questions about their peer relationships, activities, and academics in school, and their personal interests. Children assign more value to their actions, thoughts, and/or feelings when others show interest.
- Be open. Encourage your child to be open with their emotions. When you listen to their feelings without judgment, they learn that uncertainties, fears, insecurities, and/or frustrations can be a gateway to greatness.
- Tell your story. Share your own childhood stories of feeling conflicted or misunderstood to encourage your child to be confident in standing up to peer pressure.