According to the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, the number of Americans who are having children is lessening – and that's partially because many Americans cite an apprehension to bring children into what could be a scary world.
In 2014, 47.6 percent of women between age 15 and 44 never had children, up from 46.5 percent in 2012, which represents the highest percentage of childless women since the bureau started tracking that data in 1976. In fact, the proportion of women who never have children has doubled in just one generation, figures show. Of women born in 1971, 18 percent were childless in 2016 when they turned 45. Almost half of women who turned 30 in 2016, however, did not have any children.
In a world still coping with sexism, racism, homophobia and discrimination of all kinds, many women don't feel comfortable raising children. And for justifiable reasons. Too often do adults tell those young boys to "man up" and that "big boys don't cry." They're warned against expressing their emotions and being romantic, reticent, vulnerable. Society pushes one solidified idea of masculinity and beats it into them from the time they're born.
Meanwhile, girls are called little flirts who are bound to be troublemakers when they grow up. You’ll have to beat the boys off with sticks, parents will hear. And when those girls do start going to school, they're asked about their crushes in class instead of what they’ve learned. What they learn doesn't seem to matter, anyway, because they're too often told that they can't instead of that they can.
For women who do choose to have children, encouraging words can have a truly lasting effect. Parents who choose their words wisely — whether they're telling their kiddos how well they did in their soccer game or encouraging them to pick out the toys that they want to play with regardless of how those toys are socially gendered — raise children with the stamina to survive.
Here are 35 things to say to your children to encourage them to be their best selves when they start doubting themselves or find themselves drowning in preconceived notions about their own worth and destiny.
1. "It's OK to Cry."
2. "Winning Isn't Everything."
3. "Nice Guys Don't Finish Last."
4. "You Can Be Both, or Anything."
5. "Treat Others the Way You Want to Be Treated."
6. "You Can't Appease Everyone."
7. "Apologize When You're Wrong."
8. "You Can Choose Your Own Identity."
9. "I Hear You."
10. "I See You."
11. "Your Opinion Is Important."
12. "I Believe Your Truth."
13. "I Accept You No Matter What."
14. "You're Entitled to Say No."
15. "You Don't Need to Follow the Status Quo."
16. "Yes, You Can."
17. "Your Brain Is Beautiful."
18. "You Ask Great Questions."
19. "I'm Sorry, Too, and I Forgive You."
20. "You Are More Than Enough."
21. "Know Your Worth."
22. "Don't Underestimate Yourself."
23. "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff."
24. "Never Let Fear Hold You Back."
25. "Just Because No One Has, Doesn't Mean That You Can't."
26. "Remember That No One Can Make You Feel Inferior Without Your Own Consent."
27. "Choose Happiness."
28. "Be Present."
29. "Comparison Is the Thief of Joy."
30. "Be the Change You Wish to See in the World."
31. "Good Things Come to Those Who Hustle."
32. "Life Is 10 Percent What Happens to You and 90 Percent How You React to It."
33. "Sometimes You Win. Sometimes You Learn."
34. "All You Can Do Is Your Honest Best."
35. "Life Goes On."
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.