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What Your Kids Don't Need to Know About Bruce Jenner

I'm not sure what inspired to me to set my DVR to record the Bruce Jenner interview on ABC over the weekend. I don't watch reality shows, I'm not a fan of celebrity gossip, and I haven't followed his story at all.

But I as I scrolled through the menu to find the show, my stomach flipped. Would he be OK during the interview? Would he be okay after? Will the media treat him with kindness and respect from this day forward?

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I don't know Bruce Jenner, and I can't pretend to know what he's been through or what he's going through now, but I have worked with many children and adolescents over the years, and I do know that people are not always kind.

What struck me most about the interview was not the backstory (although that certainly helped fill in the gaps) but that he seemed visibly relieved to finally tell it.

"For all intents and purposes, I am a woman," is the quote that made the headlines, but it's not the one that stood out in my mind. At one point during the interview, Jenner simply stated, "I'm me."

That's just it. When I think about the kids I've worked with, the people struggling with gender identity and mental health, the people who feel like they don't have a place in this world, that quote is the one that should stand out.

"I'm me."

It's a simple concept at its core, and yet it can feel an impossible feat for many.

It seemed like only moments after the interview aired that articles started to make the rounds teaching parents how to talk to kids about Bruce Jenner. What do we say? How do we make sense of this for our children? I can't help but wonder: Is that the most pressing issue here?

What if we didn't worry about how to explain this to our children? What if, instead, we decided to take a collective pause, consider the themes contained in the interview and decided to learn something from Jenner, instead?

1. We all need unconditional love

Jenner mentioned his reservations about sharing his story with his family and loved ones. He worried that he might hurt them in some way—that his decision to live his truth might negatively impact them. His children rallied around him. He's still their dad, and they still love him.

We often talk about the importance of unconditional love when raising children. Although parenting can include ups and downs, it is essential for parents to love and support their children along the way. This is also true as people grow. Jenner needs love and support from his family to work through any struggles he might face, and they are ready to answer the call.

Support your loved ones. Love them always—they need it.

2. Kindness counts

At one point, ABC ran footage of a transgender high school girl dropping to her knees and crying upon learning that her high school elected her homecoming queen. It was a quick snippet, but a powerful one.

It's time to live in a world where people embrace differences.

Kindness makes a difference in this world. A homecoming crown might seem like a small gesture for some, but clearly it meant the world to that student.

Be kind. Teach and encourage kindness. Lead with empathy. You can never truly know what another person is up against, but you can choose to be kind.

3. Individuality matters

Jenner spent the better part of his life on the run from his true self. His marriages failed, he wasn't always there for his children, and he struggled with his emotions as a result. He lived in fear and he felt as if the walls were constantly closing in on him.

How can you possibly thrive in this world if you can't be yourself? The anxiety, isolation and depression that can result from hiding this kind of truth can be devastating. According to statistics, more than 50 percent of transgender youth will have at least one suicide attempt by age 20.

It's time to live in a world where people embrace differences. It's time to listen instead of judging and help instead of fixing. It's time to support all people.

And that brings us back to unconditional love.

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We all deserve the right to live as our authentic selves without fear of hatred from others. Instead of gossiping about how Jenner looks or what he'll wear from now on, let's pause and think about how he feels, instead.

And let's remember that kindness always counts—in person, online and even in the media.

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Image via ABC

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