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Helping Your Child Accept Their Braces

Helping Your Child Accept Their Braces

Braces come at the most inconvenient time for most kids. Right at the onset of the most awkward phase of their preteen/teenage years. Trying to navigate who they are, pimples and 4th period’s science projects are enough without adding what a lot of kids perceive as the embarrassment and uncomfortable addition of a metal mouth.

Being aware of our kids discomfort and doing what we can to make it as painless as possible to both their confidence and their mouth is important. Here are some things I found really helpful for my daughter that I hope helps makes this a better experience for your family.

Educate

Like with most things helping our children understand the way of the world and why things need to be done a certain way can be a struggle at this age. They are so much smarter than us (at least that’s the common perception anyway) so having a professional really explain what needs to be done, why, and the long term benefits was crucial.

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Once she understood the numerous health benefits of braces, it helped her to not only understand why she needed them, but accept them as well. Not only do braces straighten and correctly space crooked teeth, but they:

  • Prevent gum disease
  • Prevent teeth from rotting and falling out
  • Correct bad bites and prevent jaw problems
  • Prevent abnormal tooth wear

Food Choices

One of the subtle complaints when we talked about getting braces was the loss of certain foods. Foods like Jerky, gum, caramels, nuts, popcorn, taffy are all off limits. Anything crunchy or chewy are bad news for braces. The crunchy foods can damage the braces, bending wires and popping brackets. The chewy foods like gum, caramel and taffy get lodged into the braces also causing bending and popping of brackets and ending up terribly stuck in the braces.

When the orthodontist explained that eating these things would probably end in prolonged treatment that gave her pause, it wasn’t until her and I sat down and made a game out of deciding what foods I would keep in the house to replace the ones she would have to stay away from. Apples were replaced with bananas, chips with string cheese, bagels with muffins, popcorn with cookies and so on. In the end the “haves” outweighed the “have nots” and she was happy, and that’s what mattered most.

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Appearance

This was the hardest for her. We have all heard of and seen in popular media the poor “geek” with braces that gets ragged on by their classmates. Being a teenager is hard enough and kids can be really brutal so giving them ammunition, like braces, is scary for most kids. There are some kids who are confident enough to own and dismiss any negative responses to their braces without a problem. I wanted to make sure for both of our emotional well beings that she was comfortable socially with them.

We sat and talked about whether the opinion of mean spirited people is important to her, whether she has any friends that have braces and if she sees them any differently and for a good laugh, looked up the celebrities who have had braces and what they looked like. It was a good way for us to connect, have a good laugh and help her to be more comfortable in her own skin after she got the braces.

Another factor that was a lot of fun for her were the colored bands. She was able to customize them to her liking making them feel a little more trendy which helped with the original self consciousness surrounding them.

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Pain

This was a big one. A lot people have an anxiety about the dentist in general. I am not sure why but my daughter has been afraid of the dentist from a very young age. So much so that in grade school when I would tell her she had a dentist appointment coming up she would immediately tear up and looked as if she had seen a ghost. It slowly got better as she got older and realized the dentist wasn’t there to intentionally cause her harm, but the potential of harm still made her squirm.

Treatment for braces does not hurt most of the time; it is just uncomfortable. After her orthodontists and I clarified the facts and let her know that it is nothing a little Tylenol won’t relieve and any discomfort only lasts a few hours you could visibly see the sigh of relief.

We scheduled her appointment at the end of the school day so that she didn’t have to go back to school with a sore mouth and she was able to spend the rest of the evening becoming accustomed to them before heading back to school to take on whatever was thrown at her with confidence and a smile.

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Featured photo credit: Chris Winter via flickr.com

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Published on November 12, 2020

How to Identify And Play to Your Child’s Strengths

How to Identify And Play to Your Child’s Strengths

As you sit there, perhaps on a sofa, maybe a lounge chair, or while you’re sharing a meal at the table, you glance over to the pride and joy you are happy each day to call your child. They smile back, running around the table they learned to stand up using or kiss you on the cheek as they snatch your car keys for their first (or second, but what feels like hopefully the last) errand using your car. You watch as they take their plate from the table, ask if anyone needs anything on their way to the sink, and then finally meander towards the living room saying to you, “Bed fort after dinner?”

How respectful! How creative! Such initiative!

What you may not realize is that because we don’t often think about this in the day-to-day of parenting, your child’s strengths—the initiative, creativity, drive, passion, and introspective nature that turns other people off—are cultivated daily!

If you’ve never given thoughts to your child’s inherent strengths, that’s okay. As is all too common, you’re conditioned to only look at what they need to fix.[1]

Turns out, identifying, cultivating, and managing your child’s strengths isn’t very difficult. In fact, much of those three steps can occur during a visit to the park. Let’s discover simple and effective ways to highlight your child’s strengths.

Identifying Strengths

Now, I know what you may be thinking: between office meetings, Zoom sessions, laundry, and grocery shopping, when exactly do I have time to become a psychologist?

I get it. But really, identifying your child’s strengths is not difficult. In fact, a simple exercise usually suffices—participate in their play!

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Participate in Their Play

Play can take many forms and is usually defined as an activity that does not bring extrinsic value to be enjoyed—us adults typically refer to these activities as “hobbies.” Whether your child is two or thirteen, children are children, after all, and play is essential.

According to a report from the University of Utah, play is a way for children to practice “problem-solving, self-control, and learning how to share.”[2] Aren’t those powerful strengths that we should identify and cultivate in our supportive role of helping children thrive as adults?

When children engage in play, they naturally show how they lead, how they empathize with others, and how they work with others (or not) to solve problems. If you spend time being present with your children during play, you will be able to see how your child’s strengths manifest in the simplest of activities. Seeing your children play allows you to see how they make mistakes, too, which is a powerful indicator of their sense of self.

Allow (Supported) Mistakes—and Often!

Identifying your child’s strengths has nothing to do with demanding them to be perfect. Far from it, actually. Remember—you are guiding them to becoming a self-sufficient and nurturing adult, and there aren’t many of us out there that are perfect!

Highlighting moments when your child has made some mistakes and working through how to bounce back or fix that mistake can be wondrous when they are working towards understanding their effect on others, themselves, and the world.

Just like parents that tend to focus too much on the negative, children too often learn more from their mistakes than their successes. Catch your child softly during a mistake, and work through a plan to get themselves out of it. Your goal is not to fix their issue, of course, but to build within them the capacity to make a better choice next time.

When you take on this mindset of an engaging and present parent that is looking for ways to build your child’s strengths, you’ll be surprised at what you see them able to do.

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Some solid examples of inherent child strengths to look for include:

These are the soft skills that are being developed as young as preschool and even before. In today’s global workplace environment, ensuring that your child is developing in these (and other) areas will set them up for success.

Okay, great. You’ve watched your children at the park or tag along with your teenager to a volunteer event and notice how gracious they are. How do we keep that going?

As is normally the case, you’ll see that cultivating strengths is no more difficult than identifying them.

Cultivating Your Child’s Identified Strengths

Imagine this scenario: Thursday evening, and you’ve worked your fourth ten-hour day. Your partner is late getting home from work, and your three kids are all wanting different things for dinner that should have been made yesterday.

At the exact moment you’re about to snap from the pressure, your middle child says, “Hey, maybe we can all act like chefs tonight and make our own dinners? Might be fun!”

Um, yes, please?

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As you settle in bed later that evening and reflect on that exchange in the kitchen, you start to highlight other times that child—and, as you doze, your other children in their own ways—stepping up and leading. You know this cannot be by accident, so what’s going on here?

Provide Many At-Bats

Just because a child can take their plate to the sink doesn’t mean they are responsible enough with Grandma’s China set. But when you provide the “at-bats” for children to build capacity using their strengths, you see the road to them handling more difficult scenarios becoming less and less cluttered with obstacles.

There will come a day, and perhaps soon, that your child will be able to navigate that China with extreme grace. Today just ain’t that day, but with some work, it’ll come!

Providing opportunities for your child to build on their strengths is a great idea. Everyone likes to feel competent, and your child is no different! Setting up scaffolded opportunities for them to showcase their budding personalities decreases the stress and increases the chance that, next time, they will perform even better.

Teach Them to Trust but Verify

Good leaders don’t have all the answers. Neither should you and of course, we don’t expect our children to know everything. But we should build within them the capacity for understanding what they don’t know and figuring out ways to get the information they need to work through their situations.

You cannot always have the answers, either. So, what should you do?

Exposing them to the world of information that exists is a good start. Great, you’ve identified your child is empathetic, but must they assist and provide supportive care to everyone they encounter? Or should there be some healthy boundaries established?

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Working with your children to mold and curate these more nuanced approaches to their strengths will provide them with a good road map to use when they ultimately leave you and lead their own lives.

Turning Weaknesses Into Opportunities

While not exactly the elephant in the room, I can’t possibly write an article about child strengths without also addressing the fact that our children aren’t possibly capable of being good at everything.

Perhaps one of your most important roles as a parent is to decide what strengths your child has and to inspire them to cultivate those strengths using the tips and suggestions in this article. However, there will be a wide variety of opportunities for you to work through the challenges your child experiences.

I don’t want this to sound too harsh but the fact is, everyone has competencies on a spectrum: you can work, hustle, and grind to develop parts of your personality or skill set to whatever gain you set for yourself. Allowing children to operate with a mindset of progress, not perfection, will help their journey. You cannot be weak, after all, if you are constantly striving for improvement.

So, the next time you take your kiddo out to the park, attend a professional sporting event, or perhaps when you’re playing cards in the living room on a cold winter night, pay attention to how they maneuver around.

How are they asking for what they need? How are they offering support? How are they handling conflict? How are they bouncing back from missed opportunities or mess-ups?

In each of those moments—and many more—the opportunity to cultivate strength in your child is just around the corner!

More Tips on Developing Your Child’s Strengths

Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

Reference

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