There are so many emotions that our country is experiencing right now: anger, fear, frustration, sadness, grief, horror. If you are feeling any of these emotions, your child is feeling it too. Children learn from their parents and feed off their emotional energy. However, it is not easy to put those emotions aside in times of great upheaval and strife. What can help to quell the despair and helplessness, is action. Helping someone in need, calling on friends and family, donating time, money, or goods and using your voice to strengthen the voice of others. We, as parents, have been committed to teaching our children right from wrong, even before they are born. But we now understand that it is our responsibility to teach not just acceptance, but acknowledgement of our differences and the celebration of those differences. We have a responsibility to teach our children not only to be kind, but also empathetic to the feelings and struggles of others. We have a responsibility to teach our children not only about race and racism, but how to stand up and speak up against racism in all its forms.
If you are looking for ways to begin these lessons at home with your child, here are some ideas to get you started.
Babies will begin to recognize faces and stare at faces that look familiar, by 6 months. At toddler age, children are recognizing differences in people and can learn simple age appropriate concepts about race. What is important to remember is not to ignore racial differences, but to talk about them in thoughtful and respectful ways.
Acknowledge, Accept, and Celebrate Our Differences:
Pointing out differences in skin tone, hair texture, and other cultural differences helps our children to understand the world around them. Children are looking to their parents to give them insights on how to categorize and process what they are taking in. If your child points out differences in people they see or meet, use it as an opportunity to celebrate those differences (Yes! They look different from us and isn’t it wonderful that we have different colors of skin/hair/eyes etc). When we as parents acknowledge and accept the differences of individuals, we are showing our
children that our differences are not a deterrent to being friends.
The more we expose our children to others of different backgrounds than ours, we are helping them to create a wider world view. Our view of the world is narrow when you look at your own neighborhood, school, playmates etc. Challenge that through exposure. When we are able to socialize again, try out a “new to you” playground once a week. Your child will love the novelty of it and they will also have an opportunity to see and
interact with other children that may look different then them. Also, set up a play date with a new neighbor you’ve been wanting to meet. Until then, add to your home library and choose picture books featuring and written by POC. Make sure the characters are as diverse as their skin tones. It is important that the books you choose depict POC in many different roles, just as in the real world. Also, choose diverse television programs to expose your child to multicultural characters as well. Sesame Street has been creating positive multicultural programming for decades.
Model Kindness and Empathy:
Empathy is the ability to understand what someone else is feeling. We are born with the capacity to feel empathy but it is something that needs to be
developed. As parents, we can teach our children how to be empathetic by modeling those behaviors with our kids. Pretend play is one way to do that. By using toys to role play simple age appropriate situations of caring, inclusion, and acceptance you are giving your child powerful tools to help them navigate challenging emotional situations. While reading books together, talk about the character’s expressions and emotions. Asking
simple questions such as, “How does Gerald feel?” and “How could you help Gerald feel happy?” are easy for young children to understand and verbalize. If your child doesn’t have an answer, talk it through for them. They will be learning through your empathetic response. When children can once again socialize together, use play dates and playground meet ups to talk through emotions in the moment. Even if your child doesn’t get it at first, the continued practice of identifying emotions in other people is
part of developing the skills of empathy. Most importantly, your child learns from you. How you treat, react and respond to others, especially POC, what you watch and listen to, what you read, and who you socialize with will give your child the most influential lessons of race and racism of all.
We at Play to Grow are devastated for the BIPOC community and we stand with them as they are crying out for real change. We are listening to understand how to help and are committed to learning about our role in this fight for racial equality. We are at the beginning of our own journey in making antiracism truly part of our family’s, and Play to Grow’s, narrative and will be exploring and sharing more on this topic in the future as we learn and grow in our own education.
Here are some resources you may find interesting. We will be
adding to this list as we come across more information that may