03 March 2023
Square pegs in round holes - Five ways to encourage individuality
— My Story
“Who am I?” What a simple , but loaded question. How we answer this question reflects a lot about how we see ourselves, what we value and how much we understand about our own role in our life story.
So say Educational Psychologist and friend of the My Story Tribe, Mariaan Prins. We probed her about the concept of identity as we explored this theme this week. So many of our Tween Tribe members struggle with the confidence to be and like themselves. It led us to ask why understanding and knowing our identity is so important at this age.
Mariaan Prins explains: “ We all function within a number of systems. You are a part of these systems and interact with them. We get feedback (directly or indirectly) from friends, family, our neighborhood and school and we are influenced by it. Our self-talk is influenced by it. It is important that young people develop a strong voice. But if this voice is not well developed, self-talk is dependent on other people’s opinion - people who do not know us as well as we know ourselves.
If we don’t know ourselves, we start believing lies about ourselves. In a way, we become our own bully!
But when we reflect on our lives and connect to our own voice and who we are, we develop self knowledge that leads to self love. Knowing ourselves also means knowing our “triggers”. Avoiding triggers or knowing what to do when we experience them is so empowering to young people.
Identity development can be encouraged in a few ways:
Let’s encourage exploring our children’s identities in our homes!
“The beautiful challenge is to make room for all the unique identities in a household!” adds our Founder and mom of two teenagers, Milan Murray.
“I remind myself that I am also a part of the “system” that gives constant direct and indirect feedback to my kids. I need to be so mindful to make room for their individual personalities and not raise just clones of myself!
We are four very different people in our household. Making room for the introvert ánd the extrovert, celebrating the athlete ánd the artist and welcoming the traditionalist ánd the free-spirit can be a challenge. Not judging, but carefully directing a young, developing human is a gift and a responsibility.
Five things we do in our house to encourage individuality
- We make space for differences. Something simple like how we like to wake up and start our day can have a huge impact on how accepted we feel in a home. I have one child who literally jumps up when he opens his eyes in the morning. The music must be pumping and the energy should be high. My other child wakes up in stages. Slowly, gradually and preferably without any intruding sound. Since they were little, I woke them up differently. I allowed them to fill their morning in the way that resonates with them.
- We notice what passions they spend time on. Our children like different things. It is sometimes easier to notice and celebrate certain achievements than others. Like sport: There is a game. There is a winner. There is a medal to hang on the wall. It took us a while to realize that when a child spends 3 hours locked in a room creating an artwork, that that passion and achievement deserves an equal fuss and proud place on the wall.
- We model mutual respect. Our children are well aware of their parents’ differences. My husband is a socialite. I am a homebody. We try our best to lead by example when it comes to showing our appreciation for diversity and our love for the other’s strong, individual personality. If our kids can see that harmony is possible in relationships where people are different, strong individuals, then they have a good foundation for the future.
- We allow personal expression. Look, I am the first one to create a Pinterst board when we decorate a new room or plan Christmas dinner. I like symmetry and minimalism. I have however learned to hold back and allow space for my children to express their personalities in their rooms and at family celebrations. Seeing them blossom when they can bring their own ideas to life, reminds me of how poorly a monochrome colour scheme compares to a beaming face.
- We encourage debate. Knowing who you are is one thing, but defending it and standing up for it is on a whole other level. We love to ask our children “why" and encourage them to explain their belief or opinion or way of doing.
You can purchase the My Story Identity Printable Bundle online now!