Our country is going through a radical change, and our children are watching and observing. How we respond, discuss, and engage about this change is evident to our children, whether we like it or not.
The June 8th webpage of www.afineparent.com shared an article entitled “How to Talk to Your Kids About Race.” It pointed out that a child as young as 6 months will distinguish colors of skin. As babies start to categorize they separate things into shapes, color, gender and even race. By three years old they are already forming biases, often picking children with the same color of skin as their own as playmates. These discriminations are not taught; they are innate. The idea, that it’s best to avoid talking about race so children won’t learn about racism can actually have the opposite affect.
This happens because of assumptions we all make. When African Americans (American Indians, Hispanics, etc.) are viewed living primarily in poverty it’s easy to assume there’s some intrinsic reason and dismiss it as normal.
The article shares many well-researched suggestions as how adults can help stem racism in children.
1. Educate Yourself First Before Trying to Educate Your Child: Seek out information about people different from yourself. Currently, we see this in our news media. Pay attention and think about how you are responding; your children are watching. Books like Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, by Beverly Daniel provide insight. We all have biases, many of which we are unaware. Think about yours and where they come from.
2. Teach Your Kids by Example: Conversations are CRUCIAL (at an early age), however, our kids learn more by what they observe than from what they hear. Never forget, we are teaching something ALL of the time, good and bad, by what we do and say.
a. Read books together about people different than you. Ask questions about what they think of the story.
b. Travel to other neighborhoods, cities or countries. Over the years we had many exchange students. Consequently, our children learned about the world and eventually traveled throughout it.
c. Visit museums and explore.
d. Join celebrations of other cultures such as those in Warm Springs.
e. Explore art, food, clothing and traditions important to other cultures. Our exchange visitors taught us much about their culture and families by preparing a meal.
f. Teach what is appropriate (i.e. no black faces or American Indian costumes for Halloween)
g. Monitor movies and TV for accuracy in dress, behaviors and accents. Encourage learning other languages and information about the countries of origin.
h. Discuss injustices shown on the news and ask your kids what they think.
Expect and honor the many questions you will get and don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know. Find out the answers together.
3. Demonstrate Mindfulness and Kindness: Mindfulness allows for curiosity and inquisitiveness. When a young child asks an embarrassing question and we “shush” them it shuts down conversation and indicates something is wrong. Aim to raise children who are curious about differences and work on informative ways of responding. The article How to Talk with Kids about Race and Racism by Rosalind Wiseman points out that it’s important to speak-up when your child says something offensive. Point out why it’s offensive and provide language that helps them take responsibility for the mistake. Our kids had a list of a few important rules. One of them was, “No put downs.” An easy reminder was to say, “Tell me what rule 4 is, what that means and what just happened.” Teach that mistakes provide opportunities to learn. Be a role model by not tolerating offensive language from other adults, showing it’s not only right but also okay to speak-up.
4. Practice Self-Love: In the Ted Talk by Brene Brown on the Power of Vulnerability she stresses the importance for children to grow-up believing they are worthy of love and belonging. Encourage your children to love themselves while respecting and valuing differences in others. Teach that diversity is what makes being human exciting and beautiful. A friend from Warm Springs shared how amazed she was when her son stated, “I’m not an Indian.” Even the stereotypes he had been subjected to about his own race didn’t ring true. She realized she had much work to do to help him realize the beauty of his identity.
5. Pay Attention to Your Child’s Environment: Here in Sisters we are sheltered. Our children’s environment is seemly tranquil and lacking discrimination. Or is it? Pay attention to how characters are portrayed in TV and stories. Do parents still read Little Black Sambo? Ask teachers about the curriculums they are using.
6. Advocate and Teach Safety and Caution: For most of us, this means learning how to cross the street, don’t talk to strangers, and never get into a strange car. We teach little about race and racism. Black families must. Their children need to be taught to be careful. A friend recently shared the story of an African American man lawfully traveling after dark in his car, who was pulled over by the police. Consciously, he recalled what he had learned from his parents as a young boy, keep your hands out in front of you, answer “Yes” and “No, Sir” and do what he was told. Another story reminded me that most all of us in Sisters could go anyplace we want without fear of the police. That isn’t true for many Black people in our country. Racism is systemic, complex and subliminal, taking many forms, visible and invisible.
Another article, “Race, Kids – and the Peril of Silence” by Brian Gresko, implores us to be more mindful of the importance of talking to our kids about racism. He talks about how our white culture has given us the privilege of silence and that, “silence equals complicity.” He states that that silence is a problem. We need to help our children move forward by no longer being silent, especially when it comes to racism. Racism is systemic, complex and subliminal, taking many forms, visible and invisible, making it imperative to teach our children about it.
Today is the first day of February and the day I had decided would be set aside for taking down my outdoor Christmas lights. I know, it seems a little late, however the month of January here in Central Oregon has been gloomy and cold and I needed that extra glow each evening to give me energy. But now, knowing that this is the month that we celebrate love, I'm depending on my ability to reach out to others and to feel them reaching back to me to keep me going.
That already happened, in away, as I got my first dose of the Pfizer Vaccine on Friday and I felt elated. Elated especially because of the goodwill of the hundreds of people who gathered at the fairground, either to receive or to give the shot. The mood was so different from any I'd experienced over the past ten months that I knew life was going to be better.
I hope you are also able to catch that enthusiasm and reach out with love through your smiles, greetings, emails, zoom meetings and all of those ways that have become common place for meeting over the past several months. We'll still have to be cautious as there will be many who won't be getting their shots for awhile and we don't want to take any chance of spreading this plague to anyone. Even though I've had one dose I know I have five weeks before I'm really immune from being grabbed in its clutches. So, I'll continue to get my groceries by curb-side-pick-up (thank you Food 4 Less), attend meetings and church on my computer, wear my mask and stay six feet away from my closest companion, while at the same time I hope I will smile more, greet people in the eyes, call friends more and let love expand the horizon of where I live. I'll be watching for you. Let's do this together
And one more thing before I close. I've decided to suspend my newsletter, at least for now. So, if you've expected to receive a new issue I'm sorry to disappoint, however, I'd rather focus more on writing here in my blog and to be sure the whole world knows about my book Walker's Wisdom. I hope you will check in from time to time to see what I've written and pass it on to any who you think might enjoy reading. And, I'd love to hear from you to know what's on your mind. Until next time, take care and stay safe, and spread love where ever you go.
As we close in on Thanksgiving, one of the most celebrated holidays in our country, I’d like to share with you a quote that I recently received from The Waterfront Depot in Florence, OR
“Generosity is a resistance to the fear that we won't have enough, the illusion that we can control the future, and the walls we put up that separate us. Every small act of generosity has the ability to fight back by creating a counter culture of joy, freedom and unity.
We all have something to give. Whether it's a smile so big that it can be seen behind a mask or an unexpected gift to brighten someone's day, we all can play a part by simply asking what we have to give, and finding the person who needs it most.”
I was nearly brought to tears reading the above, so touched I was by the sentiment. Throughout the last many months, in spite of the hardships the pandemic, the social unrest, the elections and the wildfires have placed on the world and locally, many acts of kindness and generosity have taken place.
This particular restaurant has started a campaign to receive donations so they can generously give gift certificates to those in need. Here close to home we know of individuals who have collected items to donate and distribute to fire victims. As winter comes on we hear of efforts to find shelter for those who may be living in the cold. I’m sure you all have examples you could share of people reaching out to others.
As we look forward to Thanksgiving and all of its traditions, we may be bemoaning the fact that it won’t be the same as other years. For some, families won’t be together in fear of the pandemic, others may be alone because of the death of a loved one, college students won’t be traveling home, or families in general will be staying put. These are all unfortunate, however, as one of my daughters constantly reminds me, “this is not forever.”
Let’s instead be creative in how we can be resistant to the fear that grips us. As the quote says, “Every small act of generosity has the ability to fight back by creating a counter culture of joy, freedom and unity.” It reminds us that we all have something to give, and for that we should be unapologetically thankful. Whether it’s contributing to the food bank or donating to Shepherd’s House so others can enjoy a much needed meal, or calling a neighbor to see how they are doing, or sending an email greeting to someone you know is alone, do it. I, for one, am distraught at not being able to invite another single senior to share dinner with me. The Pandemic dictates this, and I will comply. However, I will find away to counteract the guilt I feel at enjoying an almost normal time while I know others will be alone. I will look for other ways to share while giving thanks, knowing many have much less.
As we spend time consciously thinking of those blessings, may we be aware of those who have lost everything and in whatever way we can, with what ever gifts we can share, reach out in generosity. Create that counter culture of joy, freedom and unity so we can break down the walls that separate us.
What a strange Halloween this will be. In our small town the annual parade down main-street, where merchants dress in costume and greet all of the kids as they “trick or treat”, has been cancelled. That, along with a huge, fun celebration that takes over the fire station, won’t happen. I imagine many other smaller traditional gatherings for kids and adults will also not be on the calendar.
This is sad as it’s a holiday that allows young and old to dress-up, pretend they are something or someone else, and possibly forget the trials of the day. At a time when our entire world needs to be cheered-up, Halloween could be a wonderful antidote for the Corona Virus. We all need a way to forget the scourge that has plagued every corner of the earth for months.
Without the traditional ways to celebrate creativity needs to come into play. What other ways can we celebrate this fun, ghoulish time?
Of course pumpkins can still be carved (or drawn on by younger hands). Maybe this year a contest for the scariest, funniest, or most beautiful pumpkin can be initiated. Be sure there are as many (or more) categories as you have kids so everyone can receive a special treat for winning (maybe even enough categories that mom and dad can be rewarded too). Don’t forget the insides make delicious pies which the kids can help bake. And, the seeds can be dried and seasoned for a delicious, health treat.
How about a dinner made up of all kinds of “horrible” things like the guts of an outer space creature (spaghetti noodles), their blood (the spaghetti sauce), and eyes of an all seeing bat (peas). Hot apple Cider could be the liquor of goodness we all need to get through this scary night and ice cream with chocolate sauce turns into all the things we don’t like getting buried in mud. Have everyone yell out what it is they’d like to have disappear as they pour on the sauce. Probably there needs to be a rule that no member of the family can be a chosen item.
If your kids are old enough to handle it, Halloween is a great time for telling Ghost Stories. Don’t worry if you’re not a storyteller, your kids can help you out.
Sit in a circle on the floor just as you might sit around a campfire. Rig up a light and place it in the center to simulate the fire (better yet light-up an actual fireplace and turn off all of the lights). Somebody needs to start the story, continuing until they say AND. When that happens the story passes to the next person in the circle. They add on until they also say AND. The story continues to pass in the same manner until a conclusion is obvious or everyone cracks-up laughing over the hilarious tale that has developed.
Don’t stop here. I’m sure more ideas will come to mind. Have your kids get involved creating fun activities that will carry you through the entire winter. Instead of just relying on the TV or other devices to entertain, pretend you are at summer camp and come-up with exciting, rambunctious events that involve the entire family.
Halloween doesn’t have to just be one night. It can go on sporadically throughout the year. Young kids don’t need an excuse to get dressed-up. They want to do it naturally. Sometimes older siblings and adults need an excuse. Turn one day a month into another “Halloween” (or other time needing costumes) and relax in the fun of pretending and forgetting.
When my husband and I were raising our four kids, having everyone home often felt chaotic. With the Pandemic keeping schools closed for many I imagine that feeling is even greater than usual, especially if you have also been working from home.
One of the first places to start to end the chaos is finding ways to get rid of clutter.
We know the value of this, however, it’s often very difficult, especially in regard to toys. One suggestion is to have shelves for organizing toys instead of toy boxes so everything has a “home” and can easily be put away. Another is to use your child’s dresser as a toy organizer. Hang most of their clothes in a closet, reserving the top two drawers for “PJS” and undergarments. Then use the last three drawers for storing toys. They are easy to reach and can be designated for particular items (i.e. trucks or dolls in one, stuffed animals in another and Legos and other small items in the third). You can find more information about This Dual-Purpose Dresser on hgtv.com
The same website talks about using a hanging clear shoe organizer to hold a number of like items. Not only for kids’ toys, it can also hold gloves and scarves, nails, screwdrivers, medicines, etc. How to Make a Fun Backseat Organizer can be found in the same resource.
When it comes to the mess created by art project, have a designated spot where everything is stored and used. An old-fashioned fold-up clothes rack for drying paintings provides a place for the masterpieces while they are still wet.
Of course, one of the best ways to keep clutter down is with follow-through, being sure all is put away when no longer needed. Another suggestion is to have a 10-minute race each night before bedtime to see who can pick up the most stuff. Perhaps the winner gets to chose the first story read before lights go out.
Sticking to a routine is always good. That being said, keeping an active family on a set schedule may not be possible. It is important to remember that the more predictability young children have within their day the better. A young mom I once worked with felt it wasn’t necessary to keep a consistent schedule. Her husband was gone during the week so she and her three year old lead a pretty laid-back life style with little consistency. Convincing her that she might regret that decision wasn’t something I was able to do. Years later, she enrolled in another parenting class I was teaching. The problem that brought her there was her sons’ inability to adapt to the schedules required in a classroom. I remembered well our conversations of years ago.
As kids get older, having certain daily responsibilities can go a long way towards keeping life balanced. As our kids were growing-up we had a caper chart for chores. Each week jobs would rotate and our four took turns having first choice as to which job they would do. Sometimes mom or dad (or an older sibling) had to assist the youngest, which turned out to be a good way to teach teamwork and working together.
A great, interactive, to-do list that will keep kids focused and accountable for household chores and homework can be created using a couple of yard sticks, and sticky notes. Attach a loop of string at the top of the sticks so they can be hung side by side, marking one “To Do,” the other “Done.” Write each chore on a sticky note and attach them to the “To Do” stick. Every time an assignment is completed your child can move it to the “Done” stick. Celebrate when all are completed, even if it’s just a “Hi Five.” (This idea came from Brian Patrick Flynn of Flynnside Out Productions, hgtv.com. Check it out. He has many more creative suggestions.)
Whenever families are together a lot, it’s important to build in breaks from being together. During the summer, when our four were home, the hour after lunch was designated uninterrupted quiet time. Each person (even mom) could choose how he or she spent it. The only requirement was it had to be alone and quiet.
Schedules should be in place to help. If they are too rigid they can easily add to the household stress. If they become problematic take time to talk about what’s happening and, as a family, come-up with a variety of solutions. Kids are usually more compliant when they feel they have a say in what’s going on, so allow it whenever possible.
As you’ve heard time and again, make time for yourself. It is extremely important. It’ll take cooperation and help from the rest of the family, so asking for it is the first place to begin.
This is a topic, I’m sure, many of you could contribute too. Please, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your ideas. Besides uninterrupted quiet time for the household, some ideas are:
As in all situations, good communication is extremely important. I point this out in my book Raising Kids With Love, Honor, and Respect. This may be a topic I will cover in later blogs. If it’s a topic you would like me to explore let me know, be specific with needs and I will do my best to come-up with helpful suggestions.
You can reach me at email@example.com