There has never been a more important time to actively practice acceptance and teach the world’s children to do the same. Acceptance is a daily value that needs regular validation and encouragement; giving adult caregivers an opportunity to practice preaching and implementing regularly. Because children engage life with a natural curiosity, insightful adult response is necessary to raise the newest generation to be tolerant, ever helpful, and accepting human beings.
The influence adults have over a child’s forming opinion when curiosity rears its head is tremendous. It’s a heavily weighted responsibility, not to be taken lightly. This means that every eye-roll, sigh, sarcastic comment made by an adult is absorbed by a child. Physical communication as a parent is a major influencer on a child’s ability to truly thrive as an accepting and loving human being.
Acceptance stems from curiosity, empathy, and compassion. Children are taught these emotional states of being as they are taught intolerance, self-absorption, and hierarchy. Ultimately, it is up to an adult caretaker to examine their own levels of intolerance, reactivity, and response so they can teach children to see the world from a more loving place. Mindfulness toward how you feel and what you project toward and in front of children is essential to creating sympathetic human beings who are willing to see sameness in all they encounter.
Acceptance begins at home. It begins within. And with a solid internal foundation of acceptance, sharing with children becomes easier.
Here are three ways to take an active role in teaching acceptance at home.
- Teach them to love themselves. – Children are constantly making assumptions about who they are and how they fit into the world around them. They do this based on how they are treated, what they are told about themselves, and how they intermingle with other human beings based on what they begin to believe about themselves.
One of the most powerful ways to begin to teach children about acceptance is to teach them to love themselves unconditionally. Acceptance, like judgement, is a two-way street. When one harnesses the ability to find acceptance with the perfectly imperfect human being they are, they are better prepared to find that same level of acceptance in another.
- Teach them to find a common ground. – When you teach a child to relate to another child as a human being, similarity is what enfolds. When children learn to see themselves in another, compassion and empathy are what build within. Children can find sameness in emotions. Even young children can relate to statements such as ‘Billy broke his toy and is crying. What do you think Billy is feeling right now? Can you remember a time that you felt that way?’ or, similarly, ‘Jerry is smiling as he is kicking the ball. How do you think Jerry feels about soccer? Do you like soccer? Is there something you like to do that makes you feel happy like soccer makes Jerry feel?’
- Look for opportunities to practice. – Crafting stories in ways to cultivate more curiosity and empathy within kids is essential. Use the depictions of the world around to ask children for their insights. Continuously asking kids about their perceptions of situations they see is powerful. It not only presents moments for adults to validate the thoughts and feelings of children, it also encourages the ability to see themselves in another. The world is full of opportunities to see differences. Ask children to find “sameness” instead.
Looking for a way to enhance the dialogue with children? Anarghya Nirbail, LAC, is a therapist at our practice who specializes in working with children over the age of six. She is formally trained in CBT from the Aaron Beck Institute and is able to implement play therapy in order to engage children in the therapeutic process. Read more about Anarghya, and schedule an appointment with her HERE.