By Sanya Pelini of Raising Independent Kids
A friend once asked me if it was difficult raising a biracial kid in France. I said I hadn’t really thought about it. I lied. It’s difficult not to think about how your child will survive a world that views him as “different.”
Still, I didn’t want to tell her that I worried our children would be where they belong yet perhaps never belong. I didn’t want to say that I had struggled with knowing what to tell them, and how much, and when. I didn’t want to say that I think raising biracial kids in a country where Marine Le Pen was as close as she has ever been to the French presidency is unsettling, as is the fact that populist rhetoric has taken over the world. Looking back, I thought leaving those things unsaid would make them disappear. But does it?[adsanity id=”35664″ align=”aligncenter”/]
I wish I could remember the specific moment when I realized that our children’s difference would make a difference. Perhaps it was when our son, then aged 5, began to ask why no one else in his school had the same color as him, and why using gel didn’t make his hair stiff. Until then, I, as well as my husband, had simply thought of our kids as gorgeous and destined for great things. And I’d let my husband’s optimism win me over when he’d said, “They’ll do great things! Just look at Obama.”
One major advantage (or disadvantage, you might say) of living in today’s era is that information is only a click away. It was while researching about “different” kids that it finally dawned on me that most parents think of their kids as “different” – too tall, too skinny, too chubby, too short, slow learners, gifted, special needs, too sickly, red head, too easily bullied – and they too worry about how these differences will make a difference.[adsanity id=”35667″ align=”aligncenter”/]
Knowing this came as a great relief. It helped us realize that raising kids is messy, and it isn’t easy for any of us; it’s tiring and heart breaking and can be filled with moments of doubts.
The greatest lesson we learned, however, is that all children need to know it’s ok to be different, and they must all be taught to embrace their differences. This knowledge has shaped our parenting values and dictates the five things we would like our kids to know:
1. You are loved unconditionally. Unconditional love does not mean accepting misbehavior or setting low expectations. It means expecting your children to give their best and being there if they need you.[adsanity id=”35665″ align=”aligncenter”/]
2. You are just right. Embrace your children’s individuality and support their strengths. We need to teach our children that their shortcomings do not make them any less special. Focus on what your children can do, rather than on what they can’t. Teach them that they are enough and that they do not have to apologize for being themselves.
3. You are responsible. Acting like a victim can keep you in shackles. We must teach our children to live with passion and to dare to dream. We need to teach them that while they might not be in control of how other people act, they are always in control of how they react.
4. It’s going to be tough. Nothing comes easy. Our children, especially when they’re “different,” need to know that much will be expected from them. We need to teach them about courage, about resilience and about the lessons learned in failure. We must prepare them: they will undoubtedly be expected to run faster, be smarter, try harder, but they need to know that giving more will only make them stronger, not weaker.
5. Yes you can! We need to teach our children that they should never let other people define them, not even us. They must know that they’re in control.[adsanity id=”35666″ align=”aligncenter”/]
Smooth their paths less and learn to let go of the driver’s seat. Show them you’re confident in their capabilities. Fight the natural urge to save them. Be their greatest cheerleader!
Raising a “different” kid is scary, but when we teach our kids that they are perfect just the way they are, they learn that they are right where they belong.
About the Author
Sanya Pelini is a recovering chocoholic. She holds a Ph.D in education and transforms scientific research into practical tools and resources on her blog http://raising-independent-kids.com. You can follow her on twitter @Ind_Kids.