The morning after the 2016 presidential election a friend sent me a message telling me she had to explain to her five-year-old twins why a bully won. I can’t imagine how hard that conversation must have been for her. Or for the millions of parents around the country and the world.
As Hillary Rodham Clinton said during the campaign “Kids hear a lot more than we think.” Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama both made multiple speeches in 2016 about the dangerous effects a trump presidency could have on our children. From his hateful speeches, to his shocking policies, and the appalling appointment of Betsy Devos, there is no doubt that the trump administration is already taking a toll on our children from all directions.
Then the ICE raids and the discriminatory laws coming out of the Texas Leg, such as SB4 and the “bathroom bill” have many of our Texas children feeling directly threatened. The parents I know have been working overtime to counteract these attacks of hate.
I am not a parent but I am a firm believer in the idea that “it takes a village” and we are all responsible for teaching and nurturing the next generation. I built this list of tips based on my studies of child development, my experience as a childcare professional, and techniques I have watched some awesome parents practice with their kids.
These are things you can do as a parent, childcare professional, teacher, aunt, uncle, grandparent, neighbor, or community member to help nurture our little Texans…
Read to them – You might be surprised how much reading a book to a child will influence them. Children’s books are typically designed to teach children a life lesson and those stories may stick with them for years and years to come. Not to mention it will foster a love for reading and learning. One book that always stuck with me was “The Big Fish” in which a big fish takes a couple around the world to find a child to adopt. The couple starts out wanting a child whose skin matches their own but at the end they learn that people do not have to match to be a family.
Volunteer with them – Taking your kids to volunteer will teach them to be contributing members of society and the importance of giving back. Picking up trash at a local park or putting a fresh coat of paint on the neighborhood playscape will teach them that the community must all pitch in to take care of the places we share. Volunteering to serve meals at the homeless shelter, delivering food for meals on wheels, or reading to the elderly at a nursing home will help teach your kids empathy for people that don’t have all of the same privileges and abilities as they do.
Listen to them and talk with them – Parents hear it all the time, “talk to your kids about _________” drugs, sex, bullying. Well the same goes for politics and current events. Kids really do pay attention more than we think and they need help processing the world around them. If your child is in the room or the car when a story comes on the news that provokes hate or discrimination, talk to them about it. But before you talk, listen. Ask them what they think. Find out what they know or what they’ve heard at school or from their friends. Then help them work through that information and guide them in the right direction. Don’t lecture them on shoulds and shouldn’ts. Instead, have a conversation with them. Trust me, not only will they appreciate you treating them as an equal, but it will also help teach them to have productive conversations about tough issues.
Here are a couple links to help you get started:
Teach through example – Show children how to be compassionate and empathetic through being those things yourself. Show them your compassion by being sensitive to their feelings and reminding them that they are cared for. Show them your empathy by listening to their problems and concerns, no matter how small they may seem to you, and reacting appropriately. These small things go a long way. When they feel safe and cared for they will feel more comfortable extending that same compassion to others and you will help model ways they can express their empathy to others.
VOTE! – You can play a huge role in your child’s future by VOTING. Your local and state representatives will have a direct effect on your child’s education and opportunities. School board is one of the most important offices to keep any eye on. Voting in progressive and empathetic candidates will help promote diversity, compassion, and empathy in your child’s school and those influences will have a lasting impact on their life.
The next school board elections in Texas are on November 7th in these areas: