by Faye McCray
It’s summertime and if your children are anything like mine, they have been browning like little turkeys in the sun. Each day, my children come inside a shade darker, and I can’t resist kissing their sweaty sun-kissed faces and marveling at how breathtakingly beautiful they are. As the school year resumes and they are thrust back into a regimented routine, I want to be sure they are armed with the tools necessary to counteract any negativity they may feel from the outside world.
Here are a few tips on teaching your children to see their own beauty:
1. Surround them with positive images of themselves.
Whether it is artwork, television shows, books, action figures or dolls, make sure the images your introduce your child to are healthy and positive. Whether it’s reality shows or the evening news, our children see enough negative versions of themselves. Counteract the negativity by surrounding them with positivity. Find books that feature heroes and heroines of color. Buy them dolls that look like them. Allow them the opportunity to see themselves for that they can be.
2. Celebrate what is unique about them.
As a woman, I stand a little over 6ft tall. I was always tall for my age and at certain points in my life, I wanted desperately to blend in with everyone else. The kindest thing someone ever said to me was “When you grow up, you will love being tall. You will command every room you walk into.” I didn’t know if was true then but I stood a little taller and prouder just in case it was. Whether freckles, chubby cheeks or big feet, find the positive in things that are unique about your child. Celebrate it and they will too.
3. Celebrate your own beauty.
I had a childhood friend whose father used to drill into our heads to “Do as I say, not as I do.” Even as a kid, I didn’t buy it. The thing is, children are always watching you. They watch more than they listen. If they see you gazing at yourself in the mirror and criticizing your broad nose or tightly curled hair, what do you think they will think about themselves when they look in the mirror and see those same features? It may not always be easy, but celebrate your own beauty and allow your child to witness it.
4. Teach them the history of their people.
The history of people of color in this country is rich and diverse. Teach them about our scientists, inventors, artists, musicians, athletes, businessmen and others who changed the landscape of the world. It’s easy to look back at dark places like slavery and segregation and feel burden and shame. However, even in the dark places we can find tremendous strength. Let them know they have royal blood running through their veins and because of that, they can accomplish anything. Never make them feel burdened by the color of their skin.
5. Don’t stifle their curiosity.
This has never been an easy one for me. As a self-proclaimed helicopter mom of three boys, I am inclined to hover over my sons. I want them to remain safe and protected. However, I have learned the more I stifle their curiosity, the more withdrawn they will become. They will be afraid to speak up in class, speak up for themselves and speak up for others. Within reason, allow your children to explore the world around them. Indulge their interests. Allow them to try new things and find answers for their questions. Allow them to see the beauty in their growing minds.
6. Be discriminating with who you allow into their lives.
The truth is, like in any community, some members of our community aren’t as enlightened as others. They are unable to find beauty in certain skin tones and features and unfortunately, they are not so good at hiding it. If possible, limit contact or keep these people away from your children. If you can’t, be sure to let your child know that you do not condone that persons comments or behavior. I have found that nothing has made me braver than being a mother. It’s not necessary to be insulting. However, I have shut down many a negative comment by saying, “Please do not say that to or around my child.”
7. Compliment, Praise, and Encourage.
In the early nineties, Toni Morrison was on Oprah discussing “The Bluest Eye.” She asked a simple question, “Does your face light up when your children walk into the room?” I was a teenager at the time but even then something about that moment touched me. It is important to feel loved, appreciated and valued. In this age of handheld devices, it is so easy to become distracted. I am guilty of having to be told to put down my electronic device by my own children when I am not giving them the attention they deserve. At the back, front, side and middle of our brain, we should all hold ourselves accountable for how we receive our children when they walk into a room. How we respond to them when they do something to make us proud. How we react when they want to feel handsome or pretty. Tell them they are beautiful, tell them they matter, tell them they are smart and they are loved. Whether we want the burden or not, it is us who will teach them their value.
About The Author
Faye McCray is an attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For Harriet, Madame Noire, Black Girl Nerds, Black and Married with Kids, and other popular publications. Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon. Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising.