This year, Thanksgiving was hosted in my home and I loved being surrounded by family, especially the kids. It warmed my heart to see my children play alongside their cousins. The youngest of the kids, my niece who is six years old, made an interesting comment completely out of the blue. She remarked that she wanted her skin to be lighter. We were all caught off guard. I imagine remarks like my niece's may not be new, but it certainly paused the turkey digestion. I could not help but wonder about the opportunities we should engage with children to have age-appropriate, self-identity conversations.
Whether we initiate them as adults or a circumstance arises, meaningful dialogue with children about all humanistic differences (e.g. race, gender preferences, sexual orientation, various faiths or non-faiths) sounds like it could be a required parenting class. Perhaps, someday it will be law to have these discussions in order to build a child's self-identity as well as acceptance of others. It is neither unheard of nor wrong to have these critical talks with young minds. Why not absorb them in a heart-to-heart as soon as possible? There is no hard rule about the best age to do so, but there are plenty of resources to support these conversations. Whether one picks a book, video, documentary, story-telling, art or other medium, there really is little excuse to not engage in these chats. Children have an amazing capacity to observe the world around them and there are too many aversions, misunderstandings or refusals to comprehend others that may be different from oneself as we get older, so let's embrace tender children and show them at the youngest of age respect for all people. Human differences and perceptions often align with bullying and one just needs to read about the origins of war to realize that some began by the rejection and hate of another human being or group.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, bullying has declined since 2013. One way to sustain this positive trend is to teach young minds the necessity to love and accept them self and others. Important discussion about self-identity, self-worth, differences and the differences of others will have to occur to someday eradicate the innocent, yet immature, thought process going through my niece's mind, my own children and I suspect millions of others. Whether it's helping the youngest of minds to love them self and identify the positives about who they are or to learn to diffuse bullying when it chisels away at self-confidence, these talks have to be practiced. Of course, there is no guarantee that talking to kids will lead them to iron-clad self-identities, to appreciate differences or to not be affected by bullying; however, the alternative of not having such conversations should not be a choice either.