Affirmative Counseling and Therapy (ACT) for Children
Editor’s Note: As of 1990, 6 million to 14 million children in the United States were living with a gay or lesbian parent. (National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, a service of the U.S. Administration for Children and Families.) If even half this number exists, that’s a lot of kids in LGBT households. We are charged with making our kids happy and healthy, both physically and emotionally.
Acknowledge your child. Children are intended to be seen and heard. See them in their uniqueness, even if they differ greatly from you. Recognize that they are, after all, young and inexperienced. Children are often BIG in ways that we see them as small, and LITTLE in ways we wish they were big.
Affirm your child. Recognize efforts, successes, even apologies. This does not spoil a child or lead to “a big head.” It need only be an honest acknowledgement of the best your child is. What we focus on naturally expands. There’s a whole critical world waiting out there for them. Equip your child for it with the knowledge of your respect and confidence.
Allow your child to try out new skills and experience new privileges within age-appropriate boundaries. Children feel safer with some limits, even if they complain about them. They will still make mistakes, but then you can help them learn and grow from the experience.
Care for all your child’s basic needs, but also for the emotional ones, too. Ridicule, name-calling, nagging and hitting all serve to break a child’s spirit. Adults never like it when children imitate those behaviors later. To a child, words can hurt more than a fist.
Counsel your child and help him/her develop as a whole person. Manners, values and spirituality are essential to this growth. Sports, education and activities are all important in a child’s life. But who your child is as a person and how he/she relates to everyone and everything can best be learned from YOU. Lead by example.
Cherish your child as unique, special, lovable and gifted. Don’t be afraid to show and tell your child how incredibly important they are to you and treat them with the respect that you would afford any significant person in your life. Physical touch is very important to a child. Say “I love you” every day—and mean it!
Talk with your child, and that implies a lot of listening—even when the topic isn’t your choice. Parents come equipped with two ears and one mouth for a good reason. Listen to your child’s concerns, talk about feelings, discuss important (and not so important) issues. Be available to talk.
Teach your child the things necessary to live successfully in life, and all the little daily skills that only you have the ability to provide. Schools can provide formal education; you can teach about LIFE. Help with homework, confer with teachers, and volunteer to be involved in your child’s school and activities.
Thank your child for doing a good job, for helping with the chores, for being a wonderful person, for remembering to be thoughtful of others. Don’t remember to correct mistakes and then take appropriate behavior, good grades, or a clean room for granted. We all thrive on appreciation; be generous with it to your children.
Some last reminders…
As a parent, you need to strive to provide a warm and child-friendly environment. Children are exceptionally perceptive and pick up on anything out of the norm very quickly. They need to know that are safe and feel valued in their uniqueness. This will help them learn appropriate limits, coping skills and also strengthen their self-esteem. A good rule of thumb: be the parent to your children that you would want.
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