According to Pew Charitable Trust, nearly every parent–regardless of income level or geographic location–worries about their child’s mental health and how they will fare amid rising rates of bullying and anxiety and depression. We also want to help our children experience joy and happiness while building a life–and career–that is satisfying and fulfilling.

So, how can we help our kids early on to build the traits and strengths that will serve them throughout life? Research shows that much comes down to a strong sense of self and identity,  focusing on one’s strengths and qualities, and valuing one’s self

Through the Campfire Method, parents can now call on the timeless and powerful art of storytelling to help their kids learn from an early age that they are enough. The ancient Persian fable of Kadu Qelqelezan, or the Pumpkin Child, takes this topic head-on. It is the story of a cheerful and funny little girl whose pumpkin body makes her the butt of many jokes but whose carefree and fun-loving nature brings her happiness. My interpretation of Kadu Qelqelezan follows:

On the edge of a small village lived a farmer and his wife. Even with their comfortable life, they wished and wished for a little daughter. One day, when the wife was working in the garden, she pulled a big orange pumpkin from the earth and laughed to her husband, ‘I would even love a daughter who looked like a pumpkin!’ 

The next year, the wife gave birth to a little baby girl with bright sapphire eyes and a wide smile. The farmer would come in from the fields to stare into his baby girl’s eyes while her mother sat beside her. But one day, he found his daughter had turned into a pumpkin! Screaming in horror, he ran through the front door and away from home forever, leaving his wife to care for the little pumpkin baby. 

Despite her looks, the mother loved her daughter more than anything. She treated her just like any other child and taught her that she was beautiful inside and out. She sewed her beautiful dresses and rolled her around the village where the pumpkin girl clumsily bumped into the village houses and made all the other girls laugh. Despite everything, the little pumpkin girl grew up to be a funny and carefree young woman! 

One day, the Mayor’s son saw the pumpkin rolling down the street and decided to follow it. He watched as it passed the other girls, making fun of the pumpkin’s awkward shape, into a field.  He became so enamored by the pumpkin’s fun-loving spirit and frolicking that he wanted to see her every day. Finally, he worked up the courage to ask for her hand in marriage, but as he gripped it, she rolled away. All that was left was her ring. 

After that, the young man searched high and low for the young woman. He asked his father, the Mayor, to bring every young woman to the center of town to find the owner of the ring. When the village girls heard the news, they clamored to be the girl who fit the ring. Some girls stopped eating for days to make their fingers thinner. But none of them fit the ring. The Mayor and his son went to the farm at the village’s edge to see if there was a young woman inside who could fit the ring. The mother answered the door and shamefully told them that, by her own wish, her beautiful daughter had turned into a pumpkin. Then, to her amazement, she saw a hand appear out of the pumpkin–the perfect fit for the ring! Everyone shouted in happiness and began to celebrate the new couple. A few days later, with the whole village laughing behind them, the Mayor’s son married the bright orange pumpkin–and they lived happily ever after.  

What makes you unique, also makes you lovable. From an early age, it is important to teach a child to be confident in their pursuits and to focus on their strengths. The town may have ridiculed the Pumpkin Child for her pumpkin shape, but she was full of life and comfortable in her skin–which brought her happiness and spread it to those around her. 

Looks are always open to interpretation.  Thanks to social media and the internet, kids navigate unrealistic ideals of beauty, anonymous online bullying, and unhealthy comparisons more than ever before. But the Pumpkin Child’s story illustrates that looks are always open to interpretation, and your look will not please everyone: after all, where the village saw a silly orange pumpkin, the Mayor’s son saw a lively and beautiful young woman. 

You are worth it. Perhaps the most important lesson in this story and the most critical piece for children today is that you are enough. Despite her shape, the Pumpkin Child was worthy of love–not just from her doting mother but also from the Mayor’s son.

Research shows that the best way to teach your child a sense of self-worth is to provide unconditional love and positive regard. By helping your child develop an early identity and learn to love and value that self, you can help build them up against future challenges and set them up for success.