There are no easy answers to the violence and pain that our country has had in the past few weeks. Raising kids in the midst of the chaos adds to the challenges of parenting. As Viral Dads stated, “I don’t know how it ends, but I know where it begins. It starts with Moms and Dads.”
But perhaps you look at the enormity of the injustice and the pain in our country and think, what can one person or one family possibly do to make a difference?
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and asking myself that very question. And the conclusion I’ve reached is one that I believe every parent can instigate in their home. It starts with you, Mom and Dad, as you do these very important things:
Love Your Children Unconditionally
This may seem like a rather elementary idea because you may say, “Of course I love my kids unconditionally.” But I encourage you to take a deeper look at the way and the why of how you express love to your kids. Love should be expressed, regardless of performance, appearance, or behavior. Tell your child daily that you love them, and frequently that you love them unconditionally. And be sure your actions back that up.
Teach Your Child to Love Others Equally
How do you talk about and treat people who look different than you? What are you modeling for your kids? That’s the biggest influence they will have in how they treat others. Model it first in your relationships, and it will be easy for your kids to follow.
Look for opportunities to build relationships with families that don’t look like yours. Whether it’s at school, in church, in the neighborhood, or in sports. There is beauty in diversity and you will open your life up to that as you embrace it.
Teach Your Child to Be Part of the Solution
We are part of the solution when we love people of all diversities. We are part of the solution when we stand up to bullies and fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. Talk to your child about the ugliness of racism, bullying, and mistreatment of those who differ from them. Have conversations about how they can stand up to it and how they can show compassion.
Start With Who You Know and Who You See
Love the people in your life, regardless of what they look like or believe. Start with the ones who you know, and then include the ones you may not know, but who you see–people you do business with, people who deliver your mail or check you out at the grocery store. People you share an apartment building with.
Start seeing them as people, giving them a smile, asking how their day is. This is something the whole world could use a lot more of, but it can start with YOU in your corner of the world.
Parents, raising kids who love and accept people who don’t look like them means that you must be intentional about being sure that happens. As with so many things in parenting, hoping that it “just happens,” is a gamble. Talk with your spouse, and then with your kids, about loving people who are different.
We have to be okay with being vulnerable, okay with being wrong, and okay with challenging the things we’ve learned. This is the path to continue moving forward – honestly talking about race and reckoning with our past – in the effort to one day overcome racism in the future. (Director of Social Engagement for iCivics, Amber Coleman-Mortley)