The term "snowflake" has become a popular quantifier as the result of a turbulent political climate, usually used to describe a left-leaning individual who is supposedly "easily" offended. It's meant to be a disparaging attack on a person's perceived strength, and it's used so often it's almost laughable. So if you're a left-leaning parent, know there are more than a few things that won't actually turn your kid into a snowflake, mostly because "snowflake" isn't really a thing. Raising kind, inclusive, equality-loving, patriarchy-fighting children is, and that's never a bad thing.
I aim to raise my kids to be self-assured, compassionate, and sensitive. It, in no way, means I'm tip-toeing around some underlying fear of damaging their self-esteem or self-worth, or whatever people who use the term "snowflake" assume I'm doing as a parent. And actually, I'm not sure why it's a bad thing to have kids who care so deeply about the world around them, and their place in it, that they're moved to act and fight for others. I'm doing my damnedest not to raise entitled, narcissistic children, incapable of stomaching criticism. I want them to understand their ideas can, and will, be challenged at some point, and when it happens it's not the end of the world. But I know they can be both sensitive and have a backbone, because the two traits aren't mutually exclusive.
The core lesson so-called "snowflakes" live by is empathy. The idea that being unapologetically empathetic makes a person weaker, or their points less valid, is absurd. Our world is evolving and my children will evolve with it. The following won't turn either one of my kids into some overly sensitive, highly offended, take-no-criticism kind of person. Actually, these things will help them see that the world isn't just about them. It's about us all.
Teaching Them About Bodily Autonomy
There can never be enough emphasis on educating consent and bodily autonomy, and it should begin as early, and as often, as possible. My children learning that their body is their own doesn't make them "too sensitive." It empowers them.
I've been teaching my kids about boundaries and personal space for as long as I can remember. Even now, if one of my kids puts their hands on the other without explicit permission (yes, even when they're just playing around), they are held responsible. They respect the rule and apply it everywhere else they go.
Practicing Empathy & Compassion
If being a "snowflake" means caring about things like religious freedoms, erasing mental health stigmas, avoiding cultural appropriation, gender equality, marriage equality, ending systemic racism, and watching the words you choose to use so you don't offend someone else, well, that's exactly the kind of person I want my children to become. That's the kind of world I want them to enjoy.
Enforcing Values & Morals
Implementing a solid foundation at home won't, in fact, turn your kids into "snowflakes" incapable of living in the "real world." It's OK if they believe strongly about something, even if it's not the popular opinion. And if their beliefs are challenged, and their feelings get hurt, that's OK, too. As long as they know what they believe, it's no one else's business.
Acknowledging Harmful Stereotypes
Stereotypes and played-out tropes are so last century, darlings! By teaching your kids not to rely on them — and to actually get to know all the layers of a person instead of making half-assed assumptions based on how a person looks, how they speak, what religion they practice, or what gender they identify as — doesn't mean they're too sensitive. It means they're damn good people. The kind of people I want my kids to be.
Choosing Words With Sensitivity In Mind
It's not atypical to hear, "I'm so OCD," or, "You're crazy," and especially, "That's so gay." Even if the aforementioned sentiments were made with the best of intentions, these phrases carry a lot of weight and can really hurt people. Some will say those offended are "too sensitive," but I challenge that notion and say maybe some aren't sensitive enough. Words can hurt. They make people feel small, overlooked, insignificant, and like their very being is fundamentally flawed. I actually have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and when I overhear someone say they're "so OCD" because of an organized counter space, it does hurt. They've just downplayed my condition. The life I live with this disorder is so much more than a punchline. It's all-consuming. It can be debilitating. It takes a lot of work, on my part, to live with OCD every day. When I'm stuck counting the seconds that pass, or standing in one spot until things "feel right," it's not funny. At all.
I don't see anything wrong with thinking about the words I choose, and teaching my kids to do the same. Life is hard enough without the use of these tired, insensitive passages.
Respecting Cultural Traditions
There's a lot of talk these days about cultural appropriation, and for good reason. Caricaturing an entire culture because it's "easy" or "cool," and without learning about and giving back to that culture, is nothing if not cruel. A person's culture isn't a costume.
Teaching your kids to respect those values and traditions that aren't theirs is important. It's about privilege and respect, and just as I tell my kids we cannot take things that aren't ours, we cannot appropriate a culture that is not ours, either.
Talking About Feelings
Younger generations are talking more about their feelings and I'm here for it. I grew up in a family with a lot of mental health issues, so feelings were often shown by way of mood disorders, as opposed to talking things through. It messed with me. It made what I was experiencing more difficult to understand. It made me feel alone.
Now that I'm a parent, I want to teach my kids to label their feelings as much as they can, because it's easier to navigate relationships when you're comfortable acknowledging your part in them. It won't make them snowflakes. It'll make them stronger, more confident people. Self care is critical. Talking about what you need and how you feel isn't ridiculous. It's a necessary part of being a complex human being.
Highlighting The Importance Of Activism
My kids have a voice and I'm damn well going to teach them to use it. If people disagree, thats their problem and in no way means my kids are snowflakes. Being involved in issues they believe in, and fighting to be the social change they want to one day see in the world, will test them, to be sure. Opposition is everywhere.
Supporting important issues won't make them any more delicate, but it will make them learn how to use their voices for good.
Speaking About Proper Use Of Pronouns
10 years ago there wasn't so much consideration about pronouns and an individual's preferred use. I actually appreciate when someone tells me, upfront, how they prefer to be identified.
That's all pronouns really are, you guys: identifiers. And we should be respecting every single human beings identity, instead of erasing it. I teach my kids to respect those who ask this simple thing of us. It's not a snowflake thing, it's a human being thing.
Acknowledging Their Mental Health Needs
Even though an open dialogue regarding mental illnesses is growing, stigma still exists. That stigma has kept people from sharing their mental health diagnoses and seeking the help and support they need and deserve. I've heard some refer to anyone who gets "triggered" by something as a snowflake, and it's offensive on many levels. Who are you to decide whether or not someone is offended? My kids know and understand it's OK to talk about feelings, to tell me when they're feeling sad, when something bothers them to the point of anxiety, and anything else that affects their mental health. Talking about it doesn't make them more sheltered or coddled, but in charge of their well-being. According to a recent study, millennials are the most depressed and anxious generation, so of course we're more sensitive.
Your kid won't turn into a "snowflake" because of attachment parenting or hugging them too much or respecting their boundaries, or any other of the aforementioned parental decisions I've highlighted. Some kids are naturally more sensitive than others, and guess what? That's OK. The world can be so harsh and cruel and unforgiving, so the least we can do, as parents, is give our kids a safe space at home. And if they do become "snowflakes," because of your love, guidance, and support, that's great. Snowflakes are changing the world — for the better.
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