Building Bridges, Not Barriers: “I’m Not Normal”
What is being normal? Normal for you may not be normal for me. This doesn’t make either of us abnormal. We all need to embrace a very easy but overlooked concept: typical behavior and nontypical behavior.
Let’s explore how this perspective applies to different stages of life, including children, teens, and adult relationships.
Children: Children come in all shapes and sizes and develop at their own pace. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to what is considered “normal” behavior for children. Using the terms “typical” and “nontypical” instead can help to acknowledge that every child is unique and may behave differently from others. By doing this, we can promote a more accepting and understanding attitude towards differences in behavior, empowering children to express themselves honestly.
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Teens: Teens are at a critical stage in their development, and it is essential to understand that there is no such thing as “normal” behavior. Using the terms “typical” and “nontypical” can help to recognize that teens exhibit a wide range of behaviors based on the circumstances and experiences they have gone through. Teens can feel more relaxed about expressing themselves and feel safe doing so.
Let’s break this down into a simple example. One child is an only child that attends private school. Both parents live in the home, and they attend church regularly. The next child is from a broken home with several siblings and often spends time with friends who like to run the streets and play pranks on each other.
Is the first child or second child normal? The private school kid would think the second child was abnormal. Believe me, that second child would certainly think the private school kid is abnormal. But, based on each of their circumstances and experiences, are they both typical? Of course!
Adult Relationships: When it comes to relationships, such as marriage or long-term partnerships, it is particularly important to avoid using the terms “normal” and “abnormal.” In any relationship, it is common for partners to have different ways of communicating, showing affection, and solving problems. The key to a successful relationship is finding a way to navigate these differences and work together as a team rather than trying to conform to societal expectations of what is considered “normal.” Using the terms “typical” and “nontypical” can help to balance the scales if one partner is not proclaiming that the other simply isn’t normal. That will foster resentment. Rather, is the behavior typical? Can you accept that typical behavior? If so, congratulations, and move on to more critical issues, like finding the remote.
By shifting our perspective and using terms such as “typical” and “nontypical,” we can work towards creating a more accepting and productive network of relationships where differences are celebrated rather than stigmatized. Whether it’s children, teens, or adult relationships, recognizing that every person is unique and may handle things differently is a step towards healing, better communication, and lasting relationships.