Perfectly planned parenthood? More and more of us millennials seem to be driven by fear and perfectionism when parenting their kids. We want everything to be perfect and God forbid nothing shall ever happen to our child. Thanks to modern media we know how pretty …
During this summer vacation, my kids did one week of summer camp on the “Bauspielplatz”, which could be translated with the words “Construction Playground”. They had a wonderful time there and I think, the pedagogical concept of this playground is so great, it is definitely …
Discrimination and injustice is a touchy subject for some “white” people. Many “white” people don’t want to be racists and don’t mean to actively discriminate. It’s a subject some parents don’t want to address or don’t feel necessary to address. However, we should be aware, that racism is rooted so deep in our society, that we grew up in a racist system and a lot of racism and discrimination even happens unconsciously. If “white” people don’t see or recognize racism in their everyday lives, that doesn’t mean there is no racism. Once you start listening to “black” people or people of color, you will see, that many of them say, that they experience racism and discrimination very often. Some say every day. It’s like world hunger. Just because I have enough to eat, doesn’t mean that there aren’t people starving. And yes, it can be uncomfortable recognizing that people are starving, while I might be wasting food. Or the Corona Virus: Some governments don’t test. But just because they didn’t test, that does’t mean, the people aren’t infected with the disease.
I think, we shouldn’t be scared to talk about racism and discrimination to our children. Kids are neither stupid nor blind. They know and understand what we are talking about because some form of discrimination and injustice will always be part of live – even in childhood. We should teach them to recognize racism, even the more the subtle forms. When we parents talk about the topic and explain, we actually help our children to sort through their own experiences and feelings, to figure out their position and we support them to find their place in the world.
Let me explain: In my experience any child – also a white child – will someday, when they enter a group, be exposed to some form of discrimination. Let’s keep the example simple and put the topic racism aside for a moment: When my kids started playing with other kids, of course they would experience that some older kids did not let them play with them, because of their age. They experienced that it can be difficult to be the stranger, the new kid or the smallest kid in a group. And when my daughter was 4, one day she came home crying because the little boys had told her, that she cannot play police with them, “because she is a girl and girls cannot be police.”
I don’t want to blow these experiences up beyond what they are. However, I believe that as adults, we have to be aware, that the feelings our kids are experiencing in such a situation are real and they are feeling just like anyone feels when they are being discriminated. And that is, what we, as parents can use as a teaching moment and should acknowledge and address. We need to take these feelings serious and put them into words. By talking about these emotions, we help our children to understand what is going on and what it makes them feel and that this is how others feel when they are being discriminated. We teach them to be empathetic and compassionate. And then we need to teach our kids, that this happens in our societyoften to people of color, that some people show such discriminating behavior and hurt them and that such behavior is not ok.
Here are some examples for how addressed this topic with my children, ways of explaining that (at a young age) my kids were able to understand:
I remember very well the talk I had with both of my kids about my daughter not being allowed to play police. I told not only my daughter, but also my son, that she can become the best police women out there if she wants, that I expect them both to treat boys and girls fair and that I as a women had experienced similar things. To all those Moms out their: Let your little boys know how you have been discriminated as a women. Your little men love you and will be angry about it and learn not to do the same to girls and women.
We also had a talk about how there are people in the world, who try to tell others, that they cannot do something, or cannot be part of the group or are worth less because of whatever feature, that this not only happens between boys and girls but also between big and small people, old and young, as well as people of different colors and that some white people do this to people with darker skin. I explained that we call this discrimination, and that this behavior it is not ok and we all have the same rights. And I told them, that whenever they see this happening, that they have to stand up to the kids who do this.
Because it is not enough to not discriminate, to not be a racist. As long as we turn a blind eye, we support discrimination and we support a racist system.
When my son as the youngest and smallest boy was a victim of mobbing and bulling and even beat up badly in 3rd grade, only one class mate stood up for him. We had one of many talks, about how good it felt, that this one kid stood up for him. About how different the situation would have been, if the whole class had stood up to the bullies and how difficult it can be to stand up for the person that is being bullied or discriminated. That you need to be brave to do the right thing and stand up against bullies. It is not easy and it can put you into difficult situations yourself, but you still need to take a stand for what is right. Such situations are good moments to teach how we have to treat all humans kind and fair and have to stand up for each other. And also to make our kids aware, that some people are mean to others for whatever reasons and that these reasons besides being the smallest often can also be the language, the gender, the color of the skin, or whatever a person looks like, the income, a disability etc. We should make our kids aware that in our society “black” people and people of color often experience such mean behavior – even if it is just in form of little subtle mean comments, that it hurts and that they should not ignore such behavior.
There are so many opportunities when we as parents can talk to our children about discrimination. Of course these talks evoke uncomfortable feelings like anger, sadness, sometimes when the situation is really bad like in the murder of George Floyd also a feeling of deep shock. But that is a good thing! I want my kids to be compassionate and empathetic. I tell them, that their gut feelings are right. That their feelings tell them that a behavior was not right and that those feelings are an important indicator that tells them to not look away but to stand up for what is right, even if that might sometimes be scary and need lots of bravery. Because telling a person that their behavior was discriminating or racist and not ok, often is not taken kindly.
So on the one hand not turning an eye to discrimination and racism may make us and our kids feel very uncomfortable. However on the other hand it is empowering, because I can give my kids the message, that if we all don’t look away and stand up for what is right, discriminating behavior will become more and more difficult to do and we can each and everyone contribute a little to make this world a better place. So let’s raise our kids to recognize discrimination and be brave, loving persons, who stand up for humanity, dignity and what is right.
I don’t believe that blaming me and any other “white” person for growing up as a privileged “white” person in a racist system, an unjust world, will help. It’s not my fault what happened before my time. However it is my responsibility to contribute my share to improve the situation, to not carry on and support discrimination and systemic racism. I truly value my freedom and human rights and I regard it as my responsibility to contribute what I can to help that all people can experience freedom and equality some day. And as a parent I need to teach my kids the value of freedom for all, of equality and human rights.
I want my children to learn that all humans are our brothers and sisters, all are equally valuable and all have to be treated with the same dignity and respect. I want them to appreciate how beautiful it is that God has created humanity with …
… and why this talk is a crucial point in my parenting With all the protests and riots going on lately about justice for George Floyd and #blacklivesmatter, more and more articles and TV messages are popping up about “how to talk to your child …
My son came up with this beautiful artwork. Here is the story he tells with his drawings:
This is the story of the Olympian God of hope (I invented). He saw how sick and sad and dark the world has become with Coronavirus. So he travels from his cloud to the world and at night, he enters all the rooms of the musicians all over the world.
In their dreams he inspires them to spread hope and happiness during lockdown. So the next morning they all go to their windows and balconies and began to play for all the people in lockdown. People find hope again.
Doctors and nurses find strengths again and all are happy again. Soon he sits on his cloud, and the world is not all healthy but there is less Corona and the people have the strength and hope to deal with it.”
We posted it on https://www.voicesofyouth.org/blog/hope-world .
There are lots of beautiful drawings from children on how they experience this pandemic. Check out this page.
Many of my most precious childhood memories are connected to the four elements, earth, water, air and fire. When life is difficult for me, I can draw strength from those memories. I believe that playful experiences with the four elements are essential for good and healthy child development. That is why I try to provide opportunities for my kids to experience those elements with all senses in our garden.
Here are some ideas, how you could try do include such play opportunities in your yard:
There are so many possibilities to let your child get in touch with the element of earth. But the most important thing is your attitude. You need to be OK with your kids getting dirty, sandy and muddy. We have a huge sand pit that is big enough to bury someone in it, just like at the beach. Small sandpits get boring quickly the older the kids are, so I really advocate to build a big and deep sandpit instead of a little one. In summer kids can use the hose to create some grouse mud. Even our older kid and his friends still love to play in our sand for ours. But also big stones like boulders, real dirt areas and garden patches for growing vegetables can be wonderful sensual and grounding experiences for your child.
Another great way to stay grounded and connect with our earth is to grow vegetables, fruits or flowers. Or maybe you would like to plant a tree with your kids that they someday can show their grandkids? All those beautiful appletrees my kids like to climb on, where planted by my father, when he was a young boy.
Kids love to play with water. Not everyone can build a pool, but even little water fountains are wonderful play opportunities. We installed a rock fountain next to our porch. It was not easy to find a nice natural looking rock in the stores. So, I went to the stone quarry and just picked out a beautiful boulder and had them drill a hole through it. There is nothing more relaxing than sitting in a deckchair, smelling the roses and listening to the bees and the murmur of the water.
Let your child experience some levity, ease and weightlessness. Bring the element of air into play with trees and bushes to climb on. Kids are always the shortest. It’s a great experience to be taller than the adults and look down to them. If there is enough space, put up a set of swings or hammocks. Your kids will love it.
You could try to find a way to be safely able and allowed to make campfires in your yard. In some areas you have to buy special fire bowls, or you have to build a fire pit. Of course, you have to check your local laws about fire, but it is definitely worth to have a designate place for an open fire in your garden where you can share memorable evenings with your kids. In Germany we have this nice tradition of baking bread on a stick over the fire. You make bread dough and then, you wrap the dough thin and tight around the point of a stick and rost it over the fire until the bread is baked. It tastes great and is healthier than marshmallows.
I think those elements are the bases a good child friendly garden should cover. If you have more space and want to provide more play opportunities, there are so many things you could do. Of course treehouses and trampolines are fun. Ask you kids, I am sure they will come up with great play ideas for your yard. However I believe a natural and beautifully structured garden is much more important than a play furniture we put in it. In a well structured natural environment, my kids can play all day. While play structures I put inside like a furniture can get boring after a while.
I hope I could inspire some of you. Let me know your thoughts.
Many parents put lots of thought into how to design their child’s room, because they want to create a nurturing environment, that helps the child to feel safe, calm and balanced and is encouraging for the child’s exploration sense and creativity. So they carefully pick …