This one may seem obvious, but boy, can it be tricky. The fun stuff we do with our kids to introduce them to diversity (such as reading books & going to art museums) is just the beginning. In order for our kids to become truly culturally competent, they have to be able to analyze and synthesize all of the (often conflicting) information that they receive. Because along with the direct information that you, the parent/guardian/loved one/teacher, are sharing, your kids are also getting numerous subtle messages from society every day. Racial microaggressions, sexist advertising, school days off for only certain holidays, the list goes on and on. Messages are everywhere. So how do you help your child make sense of it all?
Point It Out: When you see these things happening, don't ignore them! Your child will notice your silence and may interpret it in a way that you did not intend. Your silence sends just as powerful a message as your words. Tell your child when you see discrimination, in any form, happening. Point it out so your child doesn't interpret certain behaviors and messages as "just the way things are".
Make the Connection: You've set a great foundation for your child by doing fun activities related to diversity. Now it's time to use those experiences. When you are pointing out things you see in society, connect what is happening to other experiences. Did your discussion in class about Black History Month leave some things out? What do you think CJ's Nana would think about this advertisement? Do your markers represent all of the people you see? Help your child see how to make sense of all of these different aspects of diversity awareness.
Be Honest! This is a big one - the most important by far. Don't sugarcoat things for your child. Don't represent the world in the way that you wish it was. I'm not saying that you should scare your child; it's important to be age-appropriate. But don't make it seem as if the world is different than it actually is. For example, we have a board book about Martin Luther King Jr. that I've been reading to my kids since they were little. The end of the book presents the world in a way that I always felt uncomfortable with - that all kids are completely equal. This felt too disingenuous and simplistic to me. So whenever I read the book, I always added a disclaimer - that while MLK certainly helped to make things better between the races, not everyone and everything is treated as completely equal (in age-appropriate language of course). As my kids have gotten older, this has led to some questions and great discussions about what that means. I'm convinced that it's helping to teach my children not just about society, but about empathy too.
So don't be scared to have those conversations! Discussions don't have to feel impossible. Start now and they will get easier! Have you started having discussions with your kids about diversity? How did you get started? If not, what will you do to get your first one rolling? Leave a comment below. I'll see you back here in a week for the next letter - E!
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How lucky are kids today?
I know I sound like an old fuddy-duddy when I say that, but seriously! How lucky are kids today?!
The internet has revolutionized childhood like no other:
Want to hang out with friends, but can't get to them? FaceTime, group chat, text.
Have a questions but don't have an encyclopedia or can't get to the library? Look it up within 10 seconds.
Have to know the lyrics to that song you were just listening, because yes it was life-changing Mom! There's an app for that.
It is so much easier to access information that it ever has been. Advances in technology have been truly astounding over the past 20 years. We use the internet for work, play, and everything in between. So why not also use it to learn about others?
You can use computers to learn so much about others. Here are some of my favorite ways to use the computer (and by extension - phone, tablet, etc) to learn about diversity with your kids, increase their cultural competence, (and your own!) and still have fun!
What activity will you try with your kids first? Do you use the computer to learn new things with your kids? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts. Don't forget to check back next week for letter D. I think this is one that everyone will want to try.
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So this one may be my favorite...
I LOVE books. I'm a total book junkie. Everyone has their own personal obsessions. Mine is books. I'll say it loud and proud - I have a book addiction. It could be worse...
So, it would stand to reason that I would try to turn my kids book junkies too. I am totally convinced that it's working. The other day when my 3-year-old daughter should have been napping, she was 'reading'. I walked in and there were books ALL OVER THE ROOM. On her bed, on the floor, with her dolls. It was a total disaster in there so you think I might be mad, right? Not me. I was beaming with pride. That's my girl.
So why not combine some of the things I love the most: books and diversity. Books are a fantastic way to learn about almost anything. In fact, I created a fantastic list of books with diverse characters and storylines. Below is a list of diverse books to read with your kids. Some are from my booklist (see below) and some are bonus books.
Diverse Books For Babies & Toddlers:
Diverse Books For School-Aged Kids:
Diverse Books For Teens & Young Adults:
This list is only the start. You can access other great lists of books on my friend Sarah's blog Book Birdie here and my friend Sally's food and educational blog here. Both of these sites are essential for parents - I consult both of the regularly. You can also get our full list of diverse books with over 60 titles for babies to young adults.
I hope that no matter what, books are a great way to introduce your kids to something new. Go on a journey by reading with your little ones, get one of the books for your budding school-aged reader to read on his or her own, or suggest to your teen that you should read one of the books together. Any way you do it, you will be amazed at how much you and your kids will learn about others through books.
I love art. Correction. I love looking at works of art. I do not like creating works of art. Trust me, no one would consider those works of anything. But I really enjoy being an art consumer and living in Capitol Hill, DC right down the street from some fantastic and super accessible (read: free!) art museums, I like to go as often as I can. And now that my kids are old enough to walk around the museum with me, I love to take them too.
But let's face it, it's hard for kids to appreciate art. Not impossible, but not exactly easy. But so many art museums have fabulous kids' programming nowadays. Can I get my 5-year-old to appreciate Monet's brushstrokes? Um, no. But can I bring him to the National Gallery of Art to watch a film about monkeys narrated by Tina Fey (the latest that we went to go see)? Yes, please! And on the way out, we can check out some of the artwork.
So what about the diversity? How do you incorporate that into your visit? Here are a few suggestions. Keep in mind, your kid may not be ready for actual discussions about the art - some of these concepts are really nuanced and too advanced for little ones. But if you start taking your little one to the museum now, they will be more used to it and primed to have conversations when they are developmentally ready. Also, museums are great indoor spaces for kids to run around in when the weather is crappy - just a tip.
Live too far to make it to the museum? Visit online! There are tons of museums throughout the United States and the world that showcase incredible art through the internet. Here are some great art museums throughout the United States and the world. This is just a sampling - there's sure to be one closer to your town as well.
I know visiting these isn't as easy as a quick drive down the street for most people, but try to visit in person if you can! While the internet is great, there is no substitute for the real thing. Going to museums is not yours or your child's thing? Check back next week for letter B! It's sure to appeal to pretty much everyone. Better yet, 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!
I'm starting a new blog series over here on CCK called "Cultural Competence A-Z". I've gotten a lot of feedback from parents that talking about cultural competence can be overwhelming. I agree - it can be, but it doesn't have to be. That's why it's ok to start small and to start FUN! So that's why I created this series. So in the weeks and months leading up to the end of the school year (eek!), throughout the summer and into the Fall, we'll talk about fun and engaging ways that you can develop your child's cultural competence. All of the suggestions are easy, fun, and totally accessible.
Make a promise to yourself to try at least one letter. Better yet, make it a game and have your child pick! How can you make it a game? Here are some options:
The list goes on and on! There are so many ways to make this fun for you and your kids. Chances are, some of these are things you are doing already. Now, they just have a slightly different spin on them. For even more ways to have fun with your kids, check out the video blog series Just For Fun Fridays where I provide specific items to learn about diversity while still having fun with your kids. You'll enjoy it so much, you'll forget that you're teaching your child an essential life skill. You won't even believe how easy it is to get started.
What letter is your child's favorite? Which one will you try first? Leave a comment below and let us know! I can't wait to hear all about the fun!
Check back next week for letter A! Better yet, sign up for our newsletter so you don't miss a post! You'll get a FREE list of diverse books for kids of all ages-babies to young adults. You may just be able to use it - spoiler alert! - for one of the upcoming letters. Enjoy!
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!