How Can I Convince Her That She IS Good Enough?
My heart is breaking and I do hope you can help.
I have a niece who’s in the 8th grade. Up until now, she’s been a model kid – straight A’s, sweet, respectful (most times), just an all around good kid. Lately, something has changed in her.
We’ve always had a great relationship. She’s been able to talk to me when she couldn’t talk to her mom. She came to me in tears last night and told me she didn’t feel like she was good enough to be in the same school with her peers.
She attends public school in an affluent part of our county where she is one of seven African-American students. She’s had some problems with fellow students, girls, being nasty to her, not because she’s black but because she’s “poor.”
It has torn her (and me) apart because this is something I can’t fix for her. How do I drive home that her peers are no better than she is because their parents make more money?
Worried Auntie in Ann Arbor
Hi Worried Auntie:
I’m so sorry your niece is going through this; that sucks. But I think you have an incredible opportunity to help her learn some lifelong lessons. So with the knowledge that the window is opening, there are 4 things I would suggest you do to help your niece.
TALK TO YOUR NIECE
This is where you need to start but when I say talk, what I really mean is listen. Ask questions and be specific; you know how teens can be with their monosyllabic answers. Is someone in particular bothering her? What are they saying? How does it make her feel? WHY does it make her feel that way?
LISTEN TO YOUR NIECE
You see before you a beautiful girl with a great big heart; she just wants to share with her favorite aunt some of the things she’s been feeling. Even though her concerns may sound unfounded to you, it’s important you don’t discount them as they are very real to her. So when she says she doesn’t feel good enough because she doesn’t have new things, don’t pooh-pooh that; listen, absorb and then formulate your response.
Read more: Our Story Begins: But Dad, Just LISTEN!
GIVE HER STRATEGIES
When I was a kid (and my kids do this too) I used to love to hear my mom tell stories about when she was growing up, in part because it was, “the olden days” (she’s so gonna kill me) but the bigger issue was because I was able to derive comfort in hearing how she was a norma teenager. She had the same worries I did about her knobby knees and whether boys would like her. I couldn’t imagine those insecurities coming from the beautiful, confident woman who sat before me. Well it’s the same way with your niece; she needs to see her smart, accomplished, successful auntie, also had those same insecurities. From there you can map out concrete strategies to help her deal with some of her insecurities. Maybe she can find a teacher to confide in when she’s feeling sort of off-balance. Perhaps you can give her a ‘swing thought”; something to remember when she’s feeling inadequate. But above all I would impress upon her that we all felt that way and that this too, shall pass.
LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN
Let her know that she can come to you at anytime to discuss whatever it is that she is feeling. I would also add that this might be something you need to talk to her folks about. You may also have to get the school involved, depending on the level of nastiness on display; bullying in any form, cannot be tolerated so you need to make sure that is not going on.
Read more: Ask Rene: My Son Is Being Bullied! (VIDEO)
Beyond that I think one of the most important things you can impress upon your niece is something Buff told me years ago and I remember to this day; the faces will change but the people will remain the same. In other words, she will need to come up with a way to deal with these girls (ignoring them or some other coping mechanism) because they (the type) will reappear throughout her life. This, as painful as it is to her now, is but a dress rehearsal.
Good luck Auntie!
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