Introducing “Join the Dots”
As kids we love arts and crafts. Most of us are only a few days old when a parent presses our little hands in paint to make a card for grandma. (Personal tip – its best to wait until they sleep otherwise a person can get paint all over the brand-new newborn dress that the same grandma bought for the baby just the previous day – just a hypothetical example.) Painting is generally followed by colouring, cutting, sticking and eventually we move on to colour-by-numbers and join-the-dots.
In keeping with our philosophy of nurturing the kid within us, this monthly column will focus on joining the dots. But in a nice dignified adult manner. A few pointers, pretty much. Which, if connected correctly, can give us a clearer picture on a given subject. And the beauty of it is that even though different parents from different families connect the same dots in the same order, we will never quite get the exact same picture. We use different pens or pick up our hand at different times. Some of us draw straight lines and others are curvy. We are all unique in our approach even when we follow the same philosophy.
Our in-depth article this month was all about Fitting in VS Standing out. We are sticking with that theme and kicking off this column with 5 top tips on helping your kids fit in. Be sure you don’t miss next month’s column with 5 tips on helping your kids stand out! Because that is what parenting is all about: nothing is just black (especially not my work uniform after I carried a little girl with sticky hands to the car) or just white (certainly not your clean sheets after they built a fort in your living room) There is not one right and one wrong. We all wish for our kids to fit in a little better and stand out a little more. So here goes…
5 pointers to help your child fit in:
- Be on time
Whether it’s a friend’s birthday party or a normal school day, nothing starts you off on the wrong foot quite like making a late entrance. Being on time gives your child the time to assess their surroundings and settle in before the event or appointment is due to start. Missing introductions or instructions puts them at a huge disadvantage and can spoil the entire day for them. The child who arrives late has to find their feet when everyone else has already found a friend.
- Prepare them for what lies ahead
Sometimes we have to get right down to the most basic details when preparing our kids for new experiences. My 5 year-old went to a new school for the first time recently and I never realised that “pouse”, or “break-time” wasn’t part of her vocabulary. In English it is pretty self-explanatory but in Afrikaans, not quite. When telling her that she could have her lunchbox at “pouse” she thought it was just one of her classes and she had been eating under her table throughout classes all day because she was not sure which one is “pouse-class”. That afternoon she was delighted to tell me that eventually they did get some time to go play outside and everyone else had their lunchboxes then, but hers was finished. Help your kid be the one who shares her sandwich at break-time instead of being the weird little girl with crumbs under her desk. Tell them every detail you can think of when embarking on a new experience. What will they do? Who will be there? Who will pick them up and where? You can never prepare them for all eventualities but you can take them a long way on the road to being prepared. And being prepared = confidence.
- Let them know there is not just one “right”
Fitting in is not about being part of a certain group. It’s about being part of YOUR group. Help your child to celebrate the things that make them special and encourage them to find like-minded friends. Some kids love sports and some love math. Some are serious and some are always clowning around. Let your little one find their place without forcing them into the niche you used to fit into when you were in school. If he finds his place, “fitting in” becomes a support structure filled with love and appreciation as opposed to the angst of trying to be something you are not just be part of a certain crowd.
- Loyalty and love
If they are lucky enough to have some great friends who share their interests and particular brand of crazy, teach them loyalty and love towards those friends. We are brought up in a world where we are constantly told “YOU deserve to be happy” and “Love yourself” but in my experience we are happier when we focus less on ourselves and rather share the love with others. It has a tendency to come back to us in a myriad of different ways.
As babies, pretty much everyone our kids come across loves them. Parents, siblings, grandparents… but as they grow up their interpersonal relationships become more complicated. Inevitably they will have to learn to deal with people from different walks of life and with different perspectives. People who might have different ideas on the world and our place in it. Teach your kids from a very young age to respect the opinions, lifestyles and beliefs of others. They might not agree with it, but respecting those around them will lead to others respecting the little space where they fit in. And that is all any of us can ever wish for.
Fitting-in is not about conforming. It’s about being confident in your surroundings. It is about knowing your place in the world and filling that space with poise. Give your child the tools to fit confidently into society and the world will be their oyster.
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