We are raising children in a time of extreme division and pressure. It can leave parents wondering what they can do to make difference with limited time, resources, and potentially lack of knowledge.
I sat down with a good friend of mine to get some advice on this subject matter. Jessica Norwood is a busy, full time working mom of two small children who just published her first book. It’s the first in a series featuring a brown-skinned girl with curly hair named, Avery Gray. Jessica’s goal in publishing her book is to help children feel seen, represented, and beautiful.
During our conversation, Jessica and I came up with four ways to help our children celebrate diversity and differences. Below is some of our conversation and Jessica’s views on diversity and differences.
1. Create a dialogue with your children.
As a parent, we can teach and encourage our kids about diversity is by simply talking about it. Jessica says:
“In our home, that means not shying away from tougher conversations. Pointing out and highlighting differences that make us who we are…if we see someone in a wheelchair we talk about it on a level our children can understand. If we see someone with long blonde hair, we talk about how their hair is different than ours using adjectives to describe their hair versus ours. As my children get older, those discussions will expand into a deeper dialogue about how those differences can, and do, shape our world.”
2. Expose your children to children who are different than what they see daily.
“The sooner you expose your children to others who are different than what they see daily, the better. I had a (white) friend once tell me that her daughter wanted beads in her hair like some of the (black) girls at school. That would have been a perfect opportunity to discuss cultural differences. If they felt too heavy or unapproachable, a more simple conversation would be how black girls’ hair is different, and how braiding is considered a protective style. What do your children see as they look at your friend circle? How often do you invite someone In your home that doesn’t look like you?”
Jessica’s book, Bed Head, the first in her Your Hair is Magic series, is about building self confidence and promoting self-love in children. In talking about that Jessica stated:
“Children mimic what they see and hear. We have to be their example. My daughter sees me dressed up in virtual meetings, and sometimes she sees my frizzy hair on top of my head in sweat pants, still in virtual meetings. What I’m offering my team is still valuable, no matter what my appearance is. She sees me working hard always. We talk about our perfect curls the same way we talk about our frizzy curls. Society puts so much pressure on women, from a young age and I really want little girls to know that they are beautiful with curly hair.”
Are we raising children in a manner that will help protect their black and brown peers?
Jessica believes…“That means having real conversations about what is happening in our world. That means exposing people who look different, sound different, worship different, love different than what they see. I would challenge white families to look for an opportunity to put themselves in a place where they are the minority. Examine how they feel in those situations and learn from them. How often are you setting up playdates with people who don’t look like your children?”
I wanted to know how Jessica made time to bring this dream, publishing her book, into a reality. I asked her what advice she had for other moms who have dreams, but may be holding back from pursuing them. Here is what she said:
“I didn’t find the time, I made the time. I sacrificed. What would you tell your children if they had a dream, but were afraid? You would tell them to at least try. So try! Do yourself a favor and bet on yourself. Life is hard, being a mom is hard, being a spouse is hard. Juggling it all is hard. Having regret is hard. Choose your hard. Don’t look back a year from now and regret not trying. Instead, think about what 12 months from now can look like, how exciting it can be, and go for it!”
I want to say thank you to Jessica for having this conversation with me, and allowing me to share her story.