Acknowledgment – I see you. I value you.

You know when you read a book, and there’s that page with ‘Acknowledgements’ on it? Where the author thanks everyone who has either contributed, or had some kind of impact, or has supported them in some way? I always wanted to be acknowledged in one of those books – ‘Thanks to Jo – my inspiration’, or ‘Thanks to Jo – for making the tea”. I would have been happy with anything!

It’s always great to be acknowledged, isn’t it? I suffer from anxiety, and a lot of the time my anxiety feeds messages into my brain, like “You’re not worthy”, or “You’re invisible”. I think it stems from childhood, with one set of grandparents who were dismissive of any achievement I made and always told me that children should be “seen and not heard”. I was expected to sit still in their presence and “never speak until spoken to”. Never to be acknowledged as a living, breathing person – simply an annoying child, of little value. It had a huge impact on my self-esteem and my confidence.

Now, I know that that is an extreme example, but as parents, grandparents, teachers, or carers, it’s something we need to be aware of. How much do we acknowledge our children and how?

Let’s look at our experiences as an adult. Have you ever walked into a shop, only to have the assistants completely ignore you, while they finish their conversation? Horrible isn’t it? Have you ever waited on the end of a phone listening to horrendous music, not knowing where you are in the queue, or how long you will be waiting? Awful huh? Have you ever done something for someone else, taken the trouble to fix something/help someone/be kind and had no recognition at all? Hurts, doesn’t it?

None of us like to be taken for granted, but it goes deeper than that. All of these scenarios demonstrate a lack of an important human need – to feel valued. And one of the easiest ways to let someone know they and/or their actions are valued is through acknowledgment. We can all do it – and we should all do it more, especially with our children. Why? Well, simply because our children need to feel valued and validated if they are to have a robust sense of self-esteem and self.

It might be as simple as saying “thank you” or expressing your gratitude and appreciation for something they do. It might be simply keeping them up to date on how long they may have to wait until you can finish what you’re doing and listen to them, or spend time with them – “I’m busy right now, but if you wait just ten minutes I can give you my full attention”. It could just be a smile, or a touch, as you pass them – you tidying the house and them playing on the floor. It’s asking how their day was, who they played with, what they learned, instead of putting a meal in front of them and catching up with social media while they eat.

It’s also vital that you teach your children to acknowledge others. Holding a door open for someone – not just letting it shut. Asking Granny how her day was. Saying “Well done” to a friend when they do well with their spellings/painting a picture. Saying “Thank you” to a sibling who is kind or thoughtful. Thanking the person who made dinner/bought them a gift/tidied the house…

These are all life skills – showing appreciation and recognition that people exist, that they have feelings, that they have justified needs or expectations, that they are doing a great job, that they are making a difference, are kind/considerate/helpful… All these things SHOULD be acknowledged and CAN be acknowledged – simply and easily. It makes us better people – to acknowledge and be acknowledged ourselves.

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