One of the things I have learned about the most as a parent of multicultural kids is the importance of being mindful and staying in the moment. This isn’t the easiest thing to do and yet, it’s one of the best things to do. You’ll see lots of parents blogging about how they’ve stopped yelling or stopped using their electronic devices as a way to be more mindful and present with their kids. Being mindful has its benefits in that it allows you to pay attention in the moment and, as parents, to use the moment to create meaningful connection with our kids.
As a multicultural parent, the same goal applies when being mindful in those quick moments of questioning that kids give us ever so often. When it comes to addressing cultural differences, many times we experience a hesitation that is just quick enough to send a message to our kids that “we don’t talk about differences.” And, in our not-so-great moments, we scold our kids for asking an age or developmentally appropriate question based on our own discomfort around differences.
When we are mindful we can create teaching moments in response to our kids’ curiosity by engaging in the present moment as it’s happening. There is a balance to doing this because you want to do it in a way that intentionally educates, demystifies, and normalizes differences so that you can connect with your child comfortably and confidently.
Here’s one of my stories.
Recently, I met up with a friend for lunch and she encouraged bringing the kids. As most parents do, I went through my mental infographic about “going in public and remaining sane with kids who act like they never get to see the light of day whenever we go somewhere” and decided that Mom and friend could get real food “to go” and then take kids to a play-place that meets mom’s personal anxiety safety standards. Then we would eat. We put the plan in motion and arrived safely and with sanity intact at the agreed upon play area. Mission #1, accomplished.
My most curious child was 4 at the time of this outing. She is observant and keeps track of the smallest details (this is really helpful when the 18 month old is extra quiet and I’ve stayed in the shower for 30 seconds longer than the 83 seconds that is humanly feasible with 3 kids under 7). So as we walked through the establishment toward the play area, my daughter passed a little person in line. I watched her face as she looked at the little person who was essentially as tall as she, and looked like a grown up.
Her expression was simple: curiosity and wonder and a little confusion. She didn’t ask me a question or say anything loudly that would have attracted attention (also known as the “omg! don’t say that out loud, sorry ma’am/sir my child didn’t mean what s/he said.” moment). She just walked to the play-place and started playing. And then she saw another little person, this time a dad carrying a baby carrier over to his table. And she stared again. I knew this was a good time to jump into the present moment with her, demystify the event, and normalize the difference. So I did just that – using neutral language.
Me: Did you see that person carrying the baby seat?
Me: I saw you watch him. Do you wonder why he is so little and looks like a grown up?
4yo: Mommy, is something wrong with his body?
Me: No, there is nothing wrong with his body, he was born like that. Remember the lady you saw in line when we walked in? She had yellow hair?
Me: She was little too. They are called little people because their bodies are small and they are grown ups. They are born that way.
4yo: When they are babies?
Me: Yes, when they are babies they are little. And when they grow up, they just don’t get as tall as mommy and daddy, or you. They stay small. And they get married and have babies too. That’s why he was carrying the baby seat for his baby.
4yo: We used to have a baby seat for our baby.
Me: Yes we did. They have one just like we did.
And that was it.
Her curiosity was piqued, I was present enough to notice it and engage her, her questions were answered, her confusion was normalized, any fear she may have had was neutralized, and she connected with mommy in order to better understand the world around her.
It’s when we can combine mindful practices & multicultural confidence with our parenting, we have the opportunity to be aware of moments to provide clarity to the curious minds of our little ones
This doesn’t mean that we’re paranoid and pointing out everything that is different in our rush to raise unbiased kids. They will learn biases regardless of our parenting best efforts. This is about using small moments to create a normalcy of the differences that our kids experience in the world.
As mindful, multicultural parents, we connect with our kids when we stay in the present moment, demystify the event, and normalize the difference.
How do you use these tips with your kids?
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