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Kids Need to Know They Matter

Let's show them they are important.

Alyson Gerber
Source: Alyson Gerber

As a kid, my pain was never really taken seriously. Over time, I was encouraged to move forward and not let my past define me. But I couldn’t get beyond what had happened. I was ashamed. I didn’t think I mattered.

At 21, I thought I was worthless. Lazy and stupid. My life was out of control. After my younger brother was diagnosed with ADHD, I went to get tested and found out I had it too.

I started writing as part of therapy. The first thing I wrote about was being seven and standing in my underwear while a team of orthopedic surgeons looked at me and talked about all the "problems" with my body. From there, I uncovered how my scoliosis, undiagnosed ADHD, and disordered eating had made me feel like I had no value.

It was painful to remember how I was treated and how I felt about myself. And it was hard to write those feelings and memories down. But I kept writing anyway.

I write books for young readers now, because kids today are in pain, too, like I was. They need to know they matter. They are valuable. They deserve compassion. I want them to know they are not alone. Writing books for kids is how I fight to make the world better for them.

As a parent now, each time I validate my daughter’s pain, I think about how it goes against my instinct to protect her. Her hurt can feel like proof that I’m not doing a good enough job keeping her safe. My gut reaction is to make her pain stop and fix her problems. But I know that instinct is not always helpful. Not all problems can be fixed quickly. Some healing takes time. Other pain stays with you, and then changes and grows. The world is hard. We can’t always be prepared. But it’s easier for kids to be brave if there is a safe adult in their life who creates space for all their feelings and allows them to be heard, seen, and validated.

There are times when it’s hard for kids to talk about their feelings, even when they are safe to be themselves. Even when they are truly supported. In those moments, it can help to read a book that they are reading, or are interested in, along with them. Reading together is a chance to connect about a character’s experiences and feelings. When adults read books with a young person at the center of the story, it can also remind kids that adults will listen to them and take them seriously. It shows kids they are important.

This page is a place to be honest with yourself about who you are, what you've been through, and how you see the world, even when that feels uncomfortable. It will help you find your truth and claim your story. It will encourage you to make space for other people's feelings and pain. It will open up important conversations between adults and kids. Let's start telling the truth together.

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