The message of equality is so relevant today, but what are we really communicating to our kids? We want our kids to be respectful of others, value others’ opinions, disagree with dignity, and advocate for equal rights. While these messages help to develop a kid’s moral compass, they can also be confusing in one’s identity development. Don’t get me wrong, I believe we need to teach our kids to respect and value others no matter their appearance, beliefs, or orientations, but I worry that this message of equality sets kids up for disappointment and defeat. What does it really mean to be equal? Are we all equal? I propose that we rather communicate a message of difference. While some people would argue that being different is negative and leads to the creation of a hierarchy, I would argue that being different is what makes us who we are as a society and leads to incredible creativity and invention. Some of the most influential inventions and ideas have come from one person’s unique thought and confidence in their abilities. Let us celebrate our differences and acknowledge the uniqueness of our individual profiles. It is up to us parents to model an acceptance of difference and an appreciation of each of our unique profiles. We are confronted by a world that is focused on conformity. We strive to be like our peers, our neighbors, and our celebrities. No matter how much we might look or act alike, we are all very different. We must shift our perspective and see difference as beautiful and inspiring.
For a kid, differences can be most apparent in the school setting. Very early in their education, kids realize their own weaknesses and struggles, and begin comparing their academic abilities to their peers. “She’s the best reader in the class,” or “he’s so good at math,” are not uncommon observations. Avoidance of activities of weakness are not uncommon, and many kids choose silliness or humor to deflect feelings of inadequacy or inability. Students who are identified as having a specific learning or neurodevelopmental difference often find themselves feeling incapable or less than many of their peers. They may define themselves by their weaknesses, and not realize that our weaknesses often lead us to develop unique strengths. For the kid who struggles with reading, learning to pick up on nonverbal cues or the context of text may become a significant strength. For the kid who struggles with attention, coming up with out-of-the-box ideas may be second nature. Each kid’s brain has unique strengths and weaknesses, and no two kids are the same. The process of evaluating a kid should not be intimidating, but rather empowering. When kids understand how their brains work, they can learn more effectively and better cope with everyday stressors. Life is full of challenges and new situations, but with the right tools and strategies our kids can conquer all. A psychological evaluation may be the start down the path of self-discovery, giving kids an understanding of how they learn best and their neuropsychological uniqueness. Specific diagnoses should never define our kids, but rather help our kids appreciate their uniqueness and empower them to achieve. Let us celebrate the differences among our kids and help them embrace all aspects of themselves. Start by embracing your unique profile, and openly talk about what makes you who you are. Show your kids what your brain needs to function, and how your approach to the world allows you to achieve your goals.