When we cannot stop where we are and address feelings in the moment, they tend to come out sideways as emotions or actions far removed from the original feeling. They can show up as a grumpy spouse who snaps at a simple request, a call from a teacher when your child has an outburst in class, your own lack of patience with co-workers or friends. By the time the feeling has become an expressed emotion, you may not be able to find your way back to the source. As parents, modeling calm, approaching emotions with curiosity, and giving yourself and your children permission to feel will go a long way toward reducing anxiety. These life-long, invaluable skills lay the groundwork for the courage, flexibility, and compassion we will require to re-envision our world as a better, more equitable, more beautiful place.
Children develop positive self-identity through open conversations, being valued by peers, experiencing supportive relationships and settings, and by seeing other people with similar identities be appreciated and valued. A recent study by Sesame Street and the University of Chicago demonstrated that children as young as preschool notice and talk about difference in race, class, gender, culture, and religion. Open conversations with even our youngest children can help them learn about themselves and others.
Creating a school culture where we all understand and embrace differences is ongoing work which requires us to first see and acknowledge difference. When we nullify differences in favor of likenesses, the “likeness” is often anchored in culturally dominant norms. This invites “color blindness,” a well-meaning gesture that attempts to find commonality among different groups but instead can further divide us through its use of a single lens. It is crucial that as adults we develop the self-awareness and humility necessary to have courageous conversations with our children about differences and diversity.