Well, kind of...
I've spent the last few months taking some time to figure out where I was going with CCK. And I have a confession: I still don't know what I'm doing.
These past few weeks and months are really throwing me for a loop. For anyone that cares about issues related to diversity, inclusion, and equity - every day since January 20th has been somewhat of a nightmare. And it seems to get worse with each passing day. I think it's leaving all of us confused about how to move forward, what we'll tell our kids, how we'll get to a place that doesn't feel so divisive.
I know I'm referring to politics, which I tend to stay away from here on the blog, by mentioning January 20th, but really everything that I'm thinking about is not about politics. It's about us as people - how we get along, how we treat each other, and how we see each other. Over the past few weeks and months I've felt something. Something profound. Something that's sitting in the pit of my stomach. I've had the feeling that the way we're approaching things is not quite right. Not that people fighting on behalf of inclusion are doing something wrong. In fact, I think just the opposite - I so admire all those who step up and lend their time, expertise, and voice to a movement. But I do feel that there is something missing. Something relational, something human, that part feels like it's missing. I'm not sure what that is, but I'm going to use this blog to talk out my thoughts. I always tell people that I think out loud, so here goes...
The truth is that I don't know what I'm doing and I don't have it figured out. But I'm trying to make sense of it all and I'd rather do that with some company than by myself. And besides - I missed ya! And I hope that you missed me. A little? A teeny bit? Not trying to sound desperate here, but...
Sigh Ok, well I missed you and frankly, I was a bit lonely. And going a little crazy with all these thoughts running through my head without a really good way to get them out (friends and family can only tolerate so much and not everyone's boss is ok with a friend calling in the middle of the workday to talk about diversity - go figure). So I'm back. And I'm doing things a little bit differently. At least for now. Until I have it all figured out.
This could be awhile.
So I want to let you know what to expect from the new CCK. What I'll be bringing and what I won't. Brace yourselves...
What you will get:
More of ME: That's right people - I'm bringing you more of who I really am. That crazy rambling you just read above - that's the real me and you're about to get more of it. The truth is, I'm a little nutty and all over the place. I make mistakes and try to learn from them. I definitely do not have it all figured out. And by 'it all' I mean anything. It may not be pretty, but it'll be real - and hopefully at least a little entertaining.
Honesty: About what I know and what I don't. About my thoughts - no matter how outrageous. And I'm definitely calling out the bullshit that I see, because I live in DC and trust me, there's plenty. You'll also get to see and read about my mistakes - and there are a lot to choose from. At least a few times a week I smack myself on the forehead and yell 'D'oh!' a la Homer Simpson (sometimes in my head like I should and sometimes out loud to the dismay of others around me). In my CCK blogs I've always said that it's important not to expect perfection from yourself. And modeling is how people learn, so here goes...
Thoughts and feelings mixed with psych nerdiness: You didn't think I was going to change completely did you? You'll still get interesting tips and tricks, fascinating psych facts and how they relate to diversity, and information about easy ways to implement this stuff in your own lives. I'm learning right alongside you so if you are a nerd like me and have interesting tidbits - please share!
What you won't get:
Pictures of my kids: It's just a thing that I have. I don't think there's anything wrong with posting pictures of your kids online. In fact, I love that my friends do it and I get to see their adorable little ones. I know I'm weird, but hey, we all have our things. So, I'll be talking about my kids and the ridiculous things that they say and the silly things we do together - I just won't be posting any pictures of them. So when I say that they're the cutest kids on earth, you're just going to have to take my word for it.
Clean language: I'm from New York. I curse (sorry Mom). Hopefully not in front of the kids. But a study has shown that people who curse are smarter so I'll gladly own this one. I'll be sharing how I think and that sometimes (ok often, but I'll try to tone it down a little) involves expletives. If that offends, feel free not to read - I'm not going to edit things for you (unless you're my Mom - then I'll take requests).
Answers: Yeah, sorry to say, I just don't have 'em. In fact, I have way more questions than answers. The more that I try to find an answer, the more questions pop up. So I'll ask questions, give you my thoughts, and ask for yours. Who knows - maybe we'll figure all of this out together.
So there you have it. I'm going to write things that strike me, that I'm thinking about, that I find ridiculous, funny, scary, and intriguing. You'll still get the nerdy me, but you'll also get weird me, funny me, and freaked-out me - all with an eye on diversity and kids. I won't be coming at you quite as often (once a week was a little much for you and me amiright?), but don't worry, just when you think you haven't heard from me in awhile, I'll pop back up.
If you have the time (because that's just what everyone has an abundance of), take a minute to comment below and let me know what you want to see, hear, and know. I can't promise I'll have an answer, but I can promise that I'll try. And that's all we can really do right?
If you want more of me - click the button below to sign up for the newsletter. Because you'll miss me if you don't hear from me (I just know it!)
We made it! We are at the last letter in the alphabet of Cultural Competence! You may be wondering then, why the last letter is zero...as in zilch...as in nothing...as in nada...
You get the picture.
So you've done your due diligence. You've read a couple of these posts. (Haven't read any yet? Here's where you should start) Maybe you've even read all of them (way to go you!), but my question is - are there any suggestions from the posts that you've tried? What have you actually put into place? What letter have you read and said, 'I'm going to do that!' and then actually gone out and done it? One of them? Two? None?
If the last answer - zero - is the most accurate one, I applaud you for your honesty. But now is the time to change that number. Reading all of this - it's great for information. Knowledge is an important part of acquiring cultural competence. It's absolutely essential. But action is too. And without it, your kids are not benefiting as much as you think. Remember - they need to acquire skills as well. That takes practice.
So what else do you need from me? What can I help you with to make this more accessible? What does CCK need to do better to make this easier? I am committed to walking this journey with you. It doesn't have to be something you do all on your own and it doesn't have to be hard! If this is truly important to you, if you really want to increase your child's cultural competence, if you can commit to that - then I will commit too.
And to those of you who answered one or more - wow. I am honestly in awe of you. Share your story. Let us know what you tried and what you learned. What worked and what didn't. I love that you want to learn from me, but I think it's even more important to learn from each other.
I hope you keep checking the website, reading the blog, and receiving the newsletter. We are always growing, changing, and evolving - just like you and just like your kids. We will continue to provide you with more valuable content and information so stay tuned.
Make sure to join the CCK family. If you aren't already signed up for the newsletter, it's an absolute must. Just click the button below.
Stay on this journey with me! I can't wait to see where it takes us...
Cultural Competence A-Z: Y is for Youth
I know what you're thinking...
Ummm, duh! This whole series is about helping kids, so why is there a post about youth? Isn't this whole thing about kids? I'm not learning anything new here.
Well, yes, sort of, not really. Bear with me...
This week's post is all about learning from your kids (cue the collective groans). No seriously. I love learning from kids. Back when I worked in a high school, I knew more about pop culture than I ever had before (remember, when I was a kid, I was a pretty big nerd). Kids have so much to teach us. Their perspectives are fresh, they have boundless energy - which I wish I could bottle - and learning more about what they are facing as kids will help you determine how to help them develop their cultural competence skills.
So how do you learn more about your child's world? Try these below or come up with your own. If you try something that works well with your kids, leave a comment below so we can all learn from each other:
Next week is our last letter: Z! The end of the series is coming, but the blog posts continue! Don't forget to sign up for the newsletter so you get all of the tips, strategies, and information delivered right to your inbox. Enjoy and share!
So, this post isn't for xenophobia, it's anti xenophobia, but that didn't look right in the title. Just so we're clear...
What is xenophobia anyway? It's the fear and hatred of people who are different from you. Basically, you hold your people (whatever that means to you) in high esteem and significantly dislike and/or are fearful of people who are different from you. Most of the time, this word is used in terms of race, but in recent years we've seen it used more often in regards to religion (hello Islamophobia). But fill in any form of prejudice and it still applies:
Socioeconomic Status (all poor people are lazy)
Disability *Visible or Not Visible* (I don't want kids with ADHD in class with my child)
Country of Origin (Mexicans are rapists - sound familiar?)
Family Structure (All single mothers are poor and on welfare)
Neighborhood/Region (A lot of the kids at that school are from across the river - something very real here in DC)
All of these quotes don't necessarily sound like hate (except the rapist one - I mean, c'mon), but they are the precursors to hateful feelings and behaviors. When we read articles that talk about teenagers who engage in hateful behaviors (such as this... and this... and this...), it's important to remember that these behaviors did not come out of nowhere. These kids learned these feelings and attitudes from somewhere. More often than not, the message that these attitudes are ok are communicated inadvertently. But that doesn't make them any less powerful...
So how do you raise a kid who is not xenophobic? A child, and eventual adult, who values and appreciates people who are different from them. Here are a few suggestions. There are always more options, but start with these - especially the first one. It's really important:
What will you try first? Let us know what you try in the comments below. And check back next week for letter Y. Better yet, sign up for the newsletter so you don't have to remember to check. Tips, strategies, & fun delivered right to your inbox every week. Share with others & enjoy!
So originally, this was going to be 'w is for walk'. We will talk about walking here, but also about walking of the mind - or wandering. What exactly does that mean? Allowing yourself - and your kids - to really explore things and use their imagination. So let's talk about wandering - CCK style.
Imagination and play are essential for children's development and they are also important components in fostering diversity awareness. Why would this be? Well, there are a number of reasons...
Play helps children to develop a number of skills. These include awareness of the self and others, how to interact with peers and adults, and problem-solving. All of these elements are important in helping children understand themselves as cultural beings as well as understanding others. In addition, play allows children to act out the things that they see around them and make sense of them.
So how can you go about helping your child integrate imagination and wandering (both mentally and physically) into their diversity awareness? I'm glad you asked...
Ask them questions - constantly: The basic questions about how their day was and what they did in school are great, but also make sure that you go deeper than that. Ask about the kids in their class. Ask about the people on the street that they see. Ask about their teachers. Ask about their friends. Nothing is off-limits; an important thing to model.
Encourage them to ask questions: And answer them completely and honestly when they do. Go deeper than the most simple answers to their questions. Of course, it is vital to be developmentally appropriate - you don't want to go way over their heads. But don't make it seem as if the world is neat and tidy all the time. Plant seeds that will grow into deeper conversations as they get older.
Go on an adventure walk: Take a walk around your neighborhood and point out everything. The trees, the people, the houses. Encourage your child to point things out as well. And then comment on the things that they see. Help them to understand why things look the way that they look. Someone planted a tree there. Those homes are condos and those are houses and there are many reasons people choose to live in one as opposed to the other. I see more people with brown skin on this street than this street. Here are some reasons why...
Explore aspects of life that seem simple: When children are playing with toys, talk to them about the interactions. Sure, these things seem simple, but children are typically acting out what they see and experience in the world around them. Ask for examples of what they have seen. Ask about the race, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status of the dolls and toys that they are playing with. Make statements that help them think more in-depth about their play.
There are lots of ways to let your mind and body wander. To explore yourself and the world around you. The best thing about this is that you are never too old for this. It can be tweaked and tailored for any age you choose. Just get started - you may be surprised where this takes you...
Leave a comment below and let us know what you tried and how it went. Be sure to check back next week for letter X and sign up for the newsletter for even more from Culturally Competent Kids!
Confession: This post is not just about vocals.
It's actually about all kinds of music, but hey, gotta stick with the letter theme. V is for music does not work.
What is it about music that makes us feel all the feels? It really is so incredibly powerful. There are some things that can be communicated through song that simply cannot be communicated with mere words. Whether it's the lyrics, the rhythm, the instrumentals, the vocals, music is one of the greatest art forms.
Music is one of my favorite ways to introduce diversity into my house. On a recent Just For Fun Friday, I reviewed the Putumayo CD collection - it's all about music from all over the world (have a watch here). It's one of our favorites and we've been playing it for the kids since they were babies. I highly recommend checking them out and adding one of the CDs to your collection.
What music do you tend to gravitate towards? Can you branch out to learn more about other cultures? This can be done in a variety of ways. You can explore different genres, different languages, or different countries. There are so many options that you may not have considered. For instance, this past February I went with my kids to a free concert of Chinese pop music at the Kennedy Center here in DC. They absolutely LOVED it and so did I. Chinese hip hop (like for real rap music - these dudes could flow) that you can dance to at one of America's finest performance arts institutions? The clash of cultures was astounding, fabulous, and FUN!
Below is a list of places where you can get started to expand your musical palate. If none of these options appeal to you or your kids, remember, YouTube and Pandora are your friends.
Enjoy learning some new music! Let us know what you and your kids ended up loving by leaving a comment below. Be sure to check back next week for letter W and sign up for the newsletter for even more from Culturally Competent Kids!
Ok, so I realize that this post is a bit hypocritical. I often advocate getting to know things about diversity through the internet and other electronic options. This can be really helpful. But if the only way that you ever expose yourself and your kids to diversity, there is a piece missing. All of that great information won't really translate. Why not? Get ready for a crash course in Behavioral Theory...
If you want the things you are teaching your child to manifest in their actual lives, you have to make it feel real. This means that wherever you want them to actually perform the behavior, it should be in an environment that is most similar to the place where you actually want the behavior to occur. For example, if you want a child to change their behavior in school, teaching them about it in the classroom is more likely to get results than teaching them about it at home. It helps prime a child's memory to do something when they are in the actual place.
The same is true for cultural competence. We want to try and change a child's attitudes, but also their behaviors. It's hard to change those things when the only thing you are doing is watching diversity happen on a screen. It has to happen in a child's real life in order for that child to truly understand and internalize it.
So how will you unplug and apply some of these things in the real world? How will you make it personal to your child? Below are some suggestions that you can do no matter where you are:
Check back next week for letter V! We're getting towards the end of the alphabet. Have you checked out the previous letters? What has been your favorite so far? Don't forget to sign up for the newsletter and you won't have to remember to check. Get the blog as well as Just For Fun Fridays and other great information delivered weekly to your inbox. Enjoy & share!
Woohoo! I have been waiting for this week's post.
I love, Love, LOVE to travel. It's something that I don't get to do nearly as often as I'd like (time constraints, work constraints, the necessity of paying bills), but when I can, I do. The nice thing is that we are not quite as constrained by children's schedule's as we used to be (I talked about my youngest's awesome/disastrous recent nap - or lack thereof - in the B is for Books post), so it's a lot more fun to travel with my kids. And there are few things I love more than that wide-eyed expression when they discover something new and different. I still remember the first time we took my now 6-year-old to the beach. He was equal parts enamored and perplexed by this strange new substance: sand. It was so cute and fun to witness his confusion turned absolute delight. There are few things he loves more than digging and sand pours soooo much better than dirt.
I know that for multiple reasons traveling is difficult for families. But don't put too much pressure on yourself. Yes, a far flung trip around the world sounds amazing (or nightmarish - take your pick), but do a little research and you can recreate many aspects of that vacation closer to home. There is probably more to explore in your backyard than you think. Almost all major cities have ethnic enclaves that you can spend an entire day exploring. That's a travel experience in and of itself. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for festivals happening in your town. Go to a new restaurant. Options are everywhere.
Are you able to take a trip with the kids? Go somewhere you hadn't considered before. What's on your travel bucket list (mine is about a mile long)? Are all of your destinations concentrated in one area, country, or continent? Branch out! Enjoy stretching yourself and bring your kids along for the ride.
Where will you go next? What's on your travel bucket list? What will you consider adding? Leave a comment below.
Check back next week for letter U. We are getting close to the end of the alphabet! Sign up for the newsletter so you don't have to remember to check every week! You'll get a free diverse book list as well as tips and strategies delivered weekly to your inbox. Sign up today!
Developing your cultural competence is a whole-body experience. So often we talk about culture in terms of what we can see: Skin color. Gender. Style of dress. But culture is so much more than what you can see. Of course sight is important, but so are all of the other senses. Let's talk about how you can use all of your senses to develop cultural competence:
Sight: Many of the things we've talked about thus far in the series center around things you can see. Art, books, observations. You can learn so much from just getting off of your phone for just a minute and look around, you'll be amazed at just how diverse your surroundings are.
Smell: I love the idea of going on a neighborhood walk - new neighborhoods that you aren't usually in. Along with noticing the sights - notice the smells. What do you smell when you go to a new place? Which smells appeal to you? Which are aversive? Why do you think this is?
Sound: There are also sounds in each neighborhood - notice those as you walk as well. But there are also other sounds that pop up around diversity. The way different languages sound - not just the words that are used, but the music of the language. Different forms of poetry, storytelling, and books - these are all aspects of culture associated with different sounds.
Taste: Clearly this one is my favorite. I love to try new recipes that I've never had before. The great thing about this is you can never run out of ideas - there are so many cultures and each one prepares food differently. Check out the post on food for more tips on how to start.
Touch: You're probably thinking about things you can touch and yes, that is a sense that can be incorporated into diversity learning. But I like to think of feeling as more metaphoric (I am a psychologist after all). So how do all of these other sense experiences make you feel? Exhilarated? Uncomfortable? Scared? Excited? Be mindful of your own internal feelings and how they may manifest and be therefore, communicated to your kids.
Which sense will you try first? Which one appeals to you the most? Leave a comment below. Sign up for the newsletter so you'll get letter T delivered right to your email. You'll enjoy each blog post as well as tips, strategies, and general happenings at CCK. Enjoy & share with others!
When I was younger, I did ballet for several years. Let's be clear - I wasn't great. I enjoyed wearing tutus and twirling around, but I'm not the most flexible so my ballet career was pretty fleeting. But I loved ballet class, especially when we were preparing for a big show. I LOVED rehearsals - especially dress rehearsals. Instead of wearing a tutu, I got to wear a big frilly dress? Sold!
Part of the reason that I enjoyed rehearsals so much was because it made me feel more confident. Each time I practiced the routine, I got a little better at it. Sometimes it was something that my teacher noticed and corrected for me. Sometimes, I could feel something wasn't quite right and self-corrected. There were times when the changes felt unnatural and uncomfortable, but in the end it always paid off.
See where I'm going with this metaphor? Cultural Competence is the same thing. All of the tips and strategies that I've talked about in this blog series are great, but they are not really going to help if you only do them once. It takes consistency to develop a skill. It doesn't have to be constant; you don't have to talk about diversity in every interaction that you have with your child. But don't expect to read a book with diverse characters once and poof! Your kid is set for life. Nope, just like potty training, developing healthy eating habits, and getting out the door with both shoes on (oh the struggle!), consistency is key. Make sure that you are doing something, anything, on a regular basis. It can feel uncomfortable at first (probably more for you than your child) as you figure out what the heck you're doing, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.
Also, make sure that you are taking things a step further than just surface-level. At CCK, the focus is to make it fun to talk about diversity, but that's just the beginning. Not sure how to go deeper? Check out Just For Fun Friday. In almost all of the 1-page printouts is a section called 'Continuing the Conversation'. It contains tips on how to take things a step further so these very complicated concepts will really sink in and start to make sense to your child.
Eventually, it became abundantly clear that I wasn't going to be a prima ballerina. So I switched my focus: from ballet to running. And truth be told, I got to be pretty good. Even though it's called something different (practice instead of rehearsal), it's still the same idea. In order to improve, I did a lot of it - still do. I hope you'll practice - or rehearse - right along with me.
Come back next week as we present letter S! Any guesses as to what it might be? Leave a comment below! And don't forget to sign up for the newsletter so that you can get regular updates from CCK!
Dr. Sweeney is a licensed school psychologist and cultural competence expert. Here are her musings on life in a multicultural world.
Interested in writing a guest blog post? Contact me for more information!
Photos used under Creative Commons from ri Sa, Berries.com, Bread for the World, NCinDC, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Sharon Mollerus, Andrew and Annemarie, pang yu liu, Simon Blackley, Tambako the Jaguar, quinn.anya, Fiseha Hailemichael, Soft-Graphix, maeve_ab9, vastateparksstaff, StockMonkeys.com