A Case for Letting Kids Be Themselves

In this fast-paced world, where health is often put on the back burner, parents need to let their kids know that it's OK to be different.

Yesterday I did something I rarely do these days—I left the house without any makeup. Not only was I going au naturel, but my hair was a frizzy and disheveled mess because of the record-breaking heat and humidity. I have to admit, I was incredibly self-conscious, and felt that people were staring at me with glares that said, “How could she leave the house looking like that?”

With girls maturing faster than ever, it's important to me that my daughter learn that beauty isn’t tied to how you look, but who you are.

OK. I know it sounds incredibly cliche, but the age-old saying that beauty is only skin deep is all too true in our obscured society.

Just a few weeks ago, my husband said something that made me more upset than I probably should have been.

For a little background into the situation, we have both been exercising more lately—me to regain my former level of fitness, my husband to lose weight. 

On his way to the gym one evening, our daughter asked my husband why he was going. He replied, “Because daddy is fat.” 

I cringed the moment I heard the words leave his mouth. Maybe to him, working out is only about getting thin, but I don’t want our daughter to think that exercise is only important because of weight issues. 

Of course I want my husband to come to the realization that being fit and healthy is what exercise is all about, but I want them both to learn that it doesn’t matter what size you are or how you look. Instead it’s about feeling good and being the healthiest person you can be.

Our society is so focused on appearances that promoting overall health and well-being gets lost in the shuffle. 

The best place for our children to learn about healthy body image is at home. I advise making healthy choices as a family. Yes dad, that means that you have to eat your vegetables too. 

Exercise because it's fun; have a family soccer game, take a hike along one of the many state trails, or play a good old-fashioned game of catch in your backyard.

Make your health a priority, and your kids with follow suit. 

And while it may be difficult, leaving the house without being all dolled-up on occasion might go a long way in your daughter's eyes. Seeing that you are happy being yourself is one of the best gifts you can teach your kids. 

My midwife once told me that when her son graduated from high school, he thanked her for always letting him be himself. While she had to bite her lip at the sight of his newly cut mohawk, her non-interference seemed to pay off with her son.

We might not like the style of clothing or the type of music our kids listen to, but letting them be themselves is far more important than forcing them to fit into the mold society has created.

So here’s to you, my headstrong and precocious children. May you always lead healthy lives, express yourselves freely, and not be afraid to just be you.


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