This post was also published by the Huffington Post.
As parents, it’s our job to teach our kids (and educators) how to love the skin they’re in.
As a school counselor, the one thing I wish I could give my students more of is confidence. I work in a middle school, and one of the most awkward moments in adolescence. Girls compare themselves to other girls and boys feel bad if they don’t have the newest tennis shoes.
Here are a few tips on teaching kids to love themselves:
Compliment Specifically, Not Just a Generic Good Job Compliment
Tell the child what part of what they did was good.
Example: You showed good manners when you said excuse me after you burped! Wow, I like the way you colored in the lines on that picture!
Thank you for apologizing when you hurt your sister’s feelings. That was kind of you.
Immerse Them in Diversity
Now I know some of you are thinking, I live in a small town, how can I do this? Easy! Take your kids to a museum.
Read about a holiday in another culture (Cinco de Mayo, Chinese New Year, etc) Try some foods at an ethnic restaurant. Step outside of your comfort zone together as a family!
Discuss the Hard Stuff, Don’t Just Ignore
The older your children get, the more they may become aware of race relations in the news (school shootings, Black lives matter movement, racial tensions around the world, religious homicides, genocide).
No matter your stance on these touchy subjects, talk about them with your children.
They may not need a long explanation, but hearing from you gives them comfort.
Read, Read, Read
I cannot say this enough, especially to parents of young children. This is your opportunity to instill a love of reading in them. Find out what your child’s interests are.
Read books about those things. As your children get older, find a chapter book to read together. Read a book, and then watch the movie that was adapted from the book.
As you can see from this picture, we started early. We wanted our children to develop a love for reading. Our daughter was 7 months old in this picture. My husband was reading one of our favorites, Black is Brown is Tan.
Teach Them to be Sensitive to Others
When I say others, I mean others with disabilities, handicaps, or from other cultures. I grew up on an Air Force Base, and this makes me more tolerant than most by default.
You don’t have to understand everything about a person to be kind. Teaching your kids to be kind to people will help them navigate our diverse world.
If You Have Biracial Kids, They May Not Be Able to Relate to You (or vice versa)
Their peers may try to force them into a racial box they don’t belong in solely based on their skin color. They will need you to validate that their mixed heritage is unique, and they are special the way they are.
When they are little, help them focus on the similarities they have with you, rather than the differences. For example, I tell my four-year-old that she has brown eyes and curly hair like me. I also tell her that she has brown hair like her daddy.
Now she’ll point out the similarities that she has with both grandmothers and her sister on her own. When we discuss skin color, it isn’t a taboo subject in our home. It doesn’t have to be in yours either.
Someone once told me that if parenting wasn’t the hardest job I’ve ever done, I was doing it wrong. I’m here to tell you, it’s definitely the hardest job I’ve ever done! For those of you without children, some of these same tips can apply in your school, church or community.
Do you have tips that you’d like to share?