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Reach Out to Children
by Dr. Dale V. Atkins, July 2008

Life is filled with surprises: good ones, bad ones, sad ones, happy ones, tragic ones and delightful ones. We all have people in our lives whom we like and don't like, who "get" us, appreciate us, and celebrate us, and those who don't do any of that. They may be jealous, resentful, disloyal or hurtful. They behave badly more often because of their own issues rather than ours. We "trigger" their insecurities and they come out blasting, so we need to protect ourselves and we need to have other people in our lives who support us and who take joy in who we are, without trying to make us into someone we are not. Children cannot always do this for themselves. They need to be protected and valued.

Children need much reassurance and love from their parents, yet circumstances at home may not provide the tools necessary for them to build a healthy sense of self. You may be a parent with children at home. You assume many roles and parent is just one of them and sometimes being a caring parent is just not possible for you. If you are an adult with children who are in your life peripherally you can have a positive impact and influence on an impressionable child.

Each of us has influence over others. How we are perceived by other people's children, for instance, is often not known to us but is, nonetheless important. We can be powerful role models and support systems in the lives of young people, particularly those whose parents are not alive, available, or who have difficulty relating to and /or appreciating and encouraging their children.

Some of us are lucky to have an aunt or uncle or friend of our parents, or a teacher or clergy or coach who are our personal cheerleaders. They are interested in us, and as kids, we know they like us, they light up when they see us and they accept us as we are. They help us through difficult times socially, academically, or with our families. They literally "save us" and help us through tough times with our own families or identities. They help us realize we are wonderful people (even if we don't get that message from those who are parenting us.)

Pay attention to the kids in your lives. Be there for them. Accept them, foster individual relationships and allow them to get to know life through your eyes as you learn to see it through their eyes. Expose them to things they might not be exposed to with their own families and encourage their growth. It is essential to be there for the kids in our lives. Whether or not we have our own children, we can have a profound impact on the nieces, nephews, and children of our friends, neighbors, and colleagues whom we meet in the course of our lives. We may never know how important our relationships are for them; but they are.

So make the time to look around you and see the children in your life. Reach out and find an avenue for communication and an opportunity to be a positive influence in a young person's life.

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