The TV show "Andi Mack" on the Disney Channel has done a great job in highlighting real life experiences. Imagine being thirteen years old and on your thirteenth birthday you find out that your cool older sister is really your biological mom. And the parents raising you are actually your grandparents. Yes this is Andi Mack. But what is important here is who is there for the child and remember the adults are the role models. And while we are role models, while the child is learning from the adults and about their own life, as we mature as adults and caregivers, we learn just the same.
Disney Channel, 2017
While it is not unusual to have grandparents raising grandchildren but perhaps not necessarily raising them as their own child since birth. But as with Andi Mack, finding out at thirteen, and not necessarily on purpose, the pressure can be overwhelming to the child, as well as each adult involved and how they relate to the child. While I am on the topic of grandparents raising their grandchild as their child, and perhaps not too often as their own, but similarly are many single parents who have a significant other such as a boyfriend or girlfriend who fills the role of a parent that might not be in the child's life. Having a positive role model can be a benefit to the child's development. But nevertheless can also have major developmental, emotional and sociological influences as well, if life experiences change.
In this show, Andi Mack, is full of these experiences. It illustrates how difficult life change can be. From early life and inter-personality family issues while a teen is developing, learning from the adults in the child's life to the peers they influence from. Remember us, as "adults" are the role models. While we feel they fill so much of our own lives, we are there for them. As an adult caregiver, regardless of biological or not, if you are in a child's life it is up to you to be a positive role model and be there for the child. And while that wonderful child in your life means the world to you, they not only learn form you, but you learn of yourself.
And what to learn from all of this? Change and acceptance takes time. Time to take it all in. Sometimes we need help accepting, dealing with everything. As a teen, and even the caregivers. Talking to a therapist for the teen and adults can always be a big help too.
I came across this wonderful article, written by Caroline Bologna of The Huffington Post, "This Little Girl Wanted A Poop-Themed Birthday Party, So Her Parents Threw Her One"
and wanted to share with parents. As someone who is fortunate to have a wonderful child in my life, I have experienced similar requests and as a parent or caregiver it is important to model healthy behaviors (responses) and also validate (acknowledge) your child's feelings and thoughts. Further as a cognitive-neuroscientist myself, this is an opportunity to show the importance of how we respond to the child that can promote healthy changes in brain development and learning, throughout their child and teen years.
Many times as an adult, your child will ask for something that, as an adult, sounds out of the social norm, but when we remove our adult "hats" and think about it, it makes perfect sense. It is the wonderful curiosity and uniqueness of a child who is learning that makes sense.
Huffingtonpost.com This Little Girl Wanted A Poop-Themed Birthday Party, So Her Parents Threw Her One “I tried suggesting other themes, but she always insisted on poop.” By Caroline Bologna
The way we respond to their comment or requests overtime, will result in significance changes to their brain development and affects learning. If we ignore these comments or requests, or make it sound like the child has a bad idea, this will have negative consequences overtime, especially if repetitive. So instead of encouraging the child to think and come up with creative ideas, overtime, this discourages the child from thinking on their own and expressing themselves. For a child to be able to grow up to be independent and successful throughout school we want to encourage the child to think, come up with and express their ideas and be creative. This is how the child learns and applies what they learn in school, from their peers and from their environment. So when a child comes up with something that is somewhat out of the norm, consider it and embrace the idea. This encourages them, increases self-esteem and promotes learning. And of course as adults, we know how important self-esteem is to child development, because those with higher self-esteem are less likely to worry about income, social status or use alcohol, drugs or sex to help make them feel better. Instead they feel more content, respect themselves, are happier and healthier.
So anytime your child makes a request that might be out of the social norm or out or your comfort zone, remember be positive, think about it, and so long as it is not unsafe, embrace it. However if it is out of your comfort zone and you feel embarrassed it could be you might have lower self-esteem that you have learned, blocks you from trying things or being different. This is common if you have learned this so it is not your fault, but ask yourself if you want to cycle the same pattern of behavior to your child. So for your child's sake, try your best to accept what your child is suggesting, despite being embarrassed or insecure.
For me, I had parents that modeled positive behaviors which improved my self-esteem, so it was easy to embrace this with my child. Several quick examples come to mind. As a male I have gone to the office wearing a sparkly bracelet and another time gone to a meeting with one fingernail painted pink. When my little girl would make me a bracelet or painted my nail she was so happy knowing I would wear it. I was equally as proud to have as well. When people noticed I told them my little girl made it for me. They understood and thought it was such a great thing to do. This helped build her self-esteem, improved learning, and also I loved it.
Finally, The Huffington Post article. As I did, by acknowledging my child, similarly, this parent also validated her child. The mother did come up with other ideas, but the child was determined. The mother's response, helped her child stimulate creativity, improved her self-confidence, improved brain and social development, all by validating (acknowledging) the child to continue with her idea. The mother modeled positive behavior by setting boundaries, but yet allowed the child to express what she wanted. And the mother established some great ideas for her child's desire. It's quite unique. I love the "pin the poop on the toilet" game idea. It's something this child will always remember and why? Because it was her idea and her mother acknowledged it.
Remember, this is not only important to your child's ideas but anytime your child is talking, it is important to model positive behaviors in how you respond, but also always validate (acknowledge) them. So when your child or teen expresses themselves, respond and acknowledge them, their ideas, feelings, etc. in a positive and helpful way.