Just like adults, children want to ‘fit in’. Maybe it is a desire we’re all born with, maybe parents and teachers inculcate this habit in children unconsciously. Our straitjacketed approach to education and development certainly does not help. This is probably why being like everybody else and doing what everybody else does is so important to us. If you can’t fit in you’re immediately labelled a ‘weirdo’ or a freak’. I feel that it is important for parents to talk to children about being different from an early age and as a parent I invariably fall back on books to broach difficult subjects.
The book Elmer – a popular children’s classic – by David McKee talks to children about being different in a fun and colourful way. The central character Elmer is an elephant who is not ‘elephant colour’. However, Elmer is loved and accepted by his herd for being who he is. The story revolves around what happens when Elmer decides to be like everybody else in his herd. It ends with a very powerful message that may not be completely understood by very young children but would definitely leave older children and parents with something to think about.
What would you tell your child? Is it okay for him/her to be different – to stand out from the crowd? To look, feel and think differently? Have you ever asked him/her whether he had trouble feeling comfortable with people or situations where he/she did not fit in? I’ll leave you with these questions and a recommendation to take a peek at the book.