Raising Socially Conscious Children

Me and Zion (Photo credit:  Hani Elhor )

Me and Zion (Photo credit: Hani Elhor)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware that the political climate in the U.S. is tense. Bigots have become emboldened in their hatred, rapists are finally being exposed, etc. I hear ignorant comments and microaggressions daily. And as a Black “millennial” woman in America, who’s always stood against injustice: I. am. exhausted.

While I can’t focus on everyone’s bigotry all of the time, I can work to make sure my daughter is open-minded and willing to learn. As a two-year-old, I’ve already had to shield her from ignorant comments about her hair, as well as make little White boys stop “pulling her hair because it’s curly.” This may seem small to some now, but this sheds light on a larger picture about race, what it means to be Black, and the ignorance projected at such an early age. I don’t blame the child who pulled her hair, I blame the adults who allowed it and justified it.

As a parent, my goal is to raise a socially conscious, open-minded, global citizen. My daughter is two years old and has a Spanish tutor (Jennifer). She’s also surrounded by people from a range of communities, cultures, and experiences.

She will learn that her voice matters not despite her age, but because of it. I will teach her to speak up regardless of who tries to silence her. This is an important lesson that I too have come to learn recently.

I want my daughter to have the confidence to walk into any environment able to hold her own. I want her to command the respect she deserves no matter the age or race of the person in “power.”

I asked a couple of moms about how they are teaching their children to be socially conscious. Here’s what they said:

Tia and Titus

Tia and Titus

“The first thing I made sure to do with Tre is to make sure he understands how beautiful the skin he is in, is. Doing so with simple things like telling him he’s handsome, confident, smart, beautiful etc. As he gets older, it will be hard to tell a kid to love his culture and his skin, if he doesn’t even think his own skin is beautiful. Though Tre is only 2, it’s never too early to make him aware that both Black men and Black women are beautiful. I am blessed that he has examples around him, such as my parents, my brother and his wife, to see that Black love exists and that Black men DO respect Black women and vice versa. Unfortunately, my son doesn’t have the luxury that we had to see these views reflected on tv. Like how we had Family Matters, the Cosby Show, and other shows that promoted Black health, love, education and wealth. Therefore, I have to start at home.

As he grows, I will continue to expand his knowledge and awareness. Teach him the good, the bad, and the ugly about our culture, what’s going on in the world, police brutality, etc. I will not and cannot hide behind naiveness to think my son is too young to understand that there are people out there who simply will NOT like him just based on the color of his skin or make him think his skin color makes him inferior. I always think it starts at home. So, if I continue to educate him and have him see and trust that he can come to me about anything and everything, that will help him be successful in this cruel world.” - Tia Brownlee, mommy to Titus

Jennifer and Josneil

Jennifer and Josneil

“Everything I do or try to do is with the idea that he grows more socially aware. I think that’s key because we want caring and compassionate leaders in the future. We also want dependable and involved members of the community. I want Josni to know that there is a spectrum of identities. I want him to learn and play and understand different perspectives, different people. I want him to explore more of what he isn’t used to. I don’t want him to create a bubble and isolate himself from the world.

Terese and Nina

Terese and Nina

Helping my toddler find his identity, even though he is only two, has been a little challenging, but not impossible. As a mother of a “boy”, I am expected to follow the norm of how a boy should act or dress, or even play. I have had people questioning me about the long length of his hair. People telling him that, “boys don’t cry”, or that “this toy is for girls.” And to those people, I completely stop them because I want my son to be comfortable in his own skin; to love himself, to be unique. So, if Josni wants to pick “Moana “ instead of Spiderman, I let him. If Josni wants to sing and dance, I let him. If Josni wants to play with teacups, I let him. And if he wants to play with cars, I also let him.”- Jennifer Coello, mommy to Josneil

“Creating teachable moments, being open to questions based upon child, child(ren) awareness and address the privilege we have now vs when we were not giving much privilege.” - Rebekah Denise, mommy and podcaster of Rabbits Whole

“With Nina I make it really simple: you love everyone, the best you can, and if someone is unkind to you, you focus on all the ppl who are the opposite - and who love you. You come home or you find where you feel safe.

My biggest thing is ... who cares? It’s good to be aware, it’s good to be assertive, but from my experience ppl who are not open to discussion or open to learning aren’t worth the fight. I plan just teach her to let her actions and her success speak for itself. I never want her to feel she has to “defend” who she is. I want her to be comfortable with who she is, to know her worth, and to understand that just bc someone cannot see her value - doesn’t make her any less valuable or any less worthy.” - Terese Gonzalez, mommy to Nina

Sisters are more than the sum of their relative disadvantages: They are active agents who craft meaning out of their circumstances and do so in complicated and diverse ways.
— Melissa Harris-Perry

Children are sponges. They absorb everything around them. Teaching our children self-love and acceptance of differences is an important way to disrupt the cycle of hate, racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. that are often passed down from the parents of the child or taught elsewhere.

How are you raising your children to be socially conscious? Comment below!