There are unique challenges and joys in raising kids in a multicultural and ever-changing environment. Sometimes it can be hard to find ways to help our kids embrace their individuality, avoid comparisonitis, and recognize their own worth.
Years ago, I stumbled upon a simple yet powerful phrase: “You do you.” This expression serves as good reminder for both kids and adults alike. In a world that often encourages comparison and competition, it’s crucial to nurture a sense of self-worth and authenticity within our kids. As expat parents, we know that our children are constantly adapting to new surroundings, making it even more important to help them discover and honor their uniqueness.
Recently I was speaking to a parent who shared a story of the struggle their child who was having in finding ways to fit in and be accepted by their peers and was often comparing themselves to their peers. This not a new story, it is one I hear frequently and something many expat parents struggle helping their kids navigate.
In the expat world our kids are entrenched in a rich and diverse environment but the differences, especially the differences approaches to parenting can sometimes prove very tricky. When I was talking to this parent we talked about how children naturally seek validation and strive to prove themselves. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to a competitive environment where comparisons take center stage. For expat kids, who move frequently, are surrounded by different cultures and ideas and also have more limited long term connections, it is common that they find it more challenging to find their place and develop a strong sense of belonging.
As expat parents, we must do everything we can to combat “comparisonitis” and foster a positive self-image in our kids. While we can talk to our kids about the importance of self-acceptance, it is through modeling that they truly learn. Children are keen observers, absorbing behaviors and attitudes from those around them. When we embrace our own uniqueness and avoid comparisons, we become powerful role models for our children. It is critical that we strive to demonstrate self-compassion, celebration of our individual strengths, while cultivating an environment where everyone is encouraged to be their authentic selves.
Creating an accepting environment for kids to be themselves can be challenging. We want to encourage them to be authentic, yet sometimes as parents it can be a struggle to accept when they don’t meet our expectations. Balancing healthy boundaries with allowing our kids to express their true selves is a delicate dance.
1. Limit social media exposure (even through the teen years): In the digital age, social media can amplify comparisonitis. Encourage healthy tech habits and teach your child to use social media mindfully, focusing on positive connections and self-expression rather than comparing themselves to others.
2. Emphasize values and character: Shift the focus from external achievements to internal qualities. Highlight the importance of kindness, empathy, resilience, and other virtues that define their character.
3. Celebrate differences: Embrace diversity and teach your child to appreciate the beauty of different cultures, languages, and backgrounds. Encourage friendships with children from varied backgrounds, interests and abilities to broaden their horizons.
4. Foster a growth mindset: Encourage your child to see failures and setbacks as opportunities for growth and learning. Emphasize effort, perseverance, and resilience rather than solely focusing on outcomes.
5. Encourage self-reflection: Help your child explore their own interests, passions, and strengths. Encourage journaling, creative activities, or hobbies that allow them to express their unique perspectives.
Remember, as expat parents, we have the incredible opportunity to expose our children to diverse experiences, cultures, and perspectives. Let’s empower them to embrace their individuality, cultivate self-acceptance, and nurture their own unique paths in life.
You do you, and help your children shine in their own beautiful and authentic way!
Pssstttt…if you are having one of those challenging days of accepting your child for who they are, or maybe you are struggling with your own comparisonitis know you are not alone. We are never going to get it right 100% of the time but I see the effort you are putting in and know your child is so lucky to have YOU!