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Raising a Chocolate Child in a Vanilla World: Part II

May 13, 2014

By Dr. Tyffani Dent

A black female toddler holds a white baby doll.

Editor’s note: In yesterday’s article, “Raising a Chocolate Child in a Vanilla World: Part I,” Dr. Dent told us about her daughter’s comment about wanting to be a blonde girl. She shared her family’s story of researching where to live and to which school district to send her daughter to make sure she was raised in a diverse community.

Today she shares tips on how to help your child embrace his or her diversity. While the below tips are written specifically for African-American females, we think they apply to children of any race or ethnicity.

  • Point out other girls who look like her when you see them on television, in movies, and in the community. Make sure to talk about how beautiful they are.
  • Positively comment on your child's unique physical attributes. For example, when combing her hair, talk about how pretty and thick it is. Show her how the texture allows her to wear nice bows, ponytails, braids, etc.
  • Go overboard. There are not many characters in pop culture that look like her. Buy the books, t-shirts, magazines, music, etc. of the latest African-American "it" girl or cartoon character. Caution: these characters should also embody your values and beliefs while being an age-appropriate role model for your child.
  • Although not all of her friends need to be "chocolate children," you should make a conscious effort to provide her with a "chocolate frame-of-reference." Expose her to some chocolate children her age so she does not always feel like an outsider, which can also contribute to feelings of alienation and a desire to be the same as everyone else.
  • Don't dismiss her concerns as petty. Acknowledge them, listen to her reasoning, and work to gently provide information that combats such a negative view of self.
  • Breathe. This is also a normal part of her development as she is at the age when she is noticing differences and is out of the cocoon of your home. She is being exposed to society and its overall representation of what is and is not good. Again, don’t ignore it, but also don’t give up on the belief that your child will begin to love herself.
  • Engage her in activities to build her self-esteem. Encourage her healthy interests that can also provide her with a coat of armor against negative stereotypes that are all around her. If she is an athlete, find your local sports team. A singer? Get out the hairbrush and have a concert at the house or have her join the choir at your house of worship.

All of these tips can help your child build confidence and embrace his or her uniqueness, whether it’s due to race, ethnicity, gender, or many other factors. The important thing is to love your child and help them see how wonderful he or she truly is.

[Editor’s note: this article is part two of a two-part series on issues that face racially diverse children and their parents. For the author’s story about her family’s experience, see part one.]

Dr. Tyffani Monford Dent is a licensed psychologist, motivational speaker, and author. She lectures and trains on issues of mental health disparity in minority communities, children’s and women’s issues, and sexual abuse intervention and prevention. Dr. Dent is also the Executive Director of Monford Dent Consulting & Psychological Services, LLC and the author of the book Girls Got Issues: A Woman’s Guide to Self-discovery and Healing.


Raising a Chocolate Child in a Vanilla World: Part I

May 12, 2014

By Dr. Tyffani Dent

A black toddler holds a white baby doll.

I was sitting with my 5 year-old the other day when she turned to me and said, “Mommy, I wish I was blonde.”

Instantly, I thought of how female musicians have been dying their hair and I rolled my eyes as I responded, “Baby, your brown hair is beautiful.”

She sighed and looked up at me with brown eyes that are so like my own and said, “No, Mommy. I wish I was blonde.”

It was then that I realized that my beautiful baby who is the color of a milk chocolate bar was talking about her skin.

The psychologist in me began thinking about Kenneth and Mamie Clark’s 1939 doll study. In their study, the Clarks found that black children often preferred to play with white dolls over black, and that the children gave the color "white" attributes such as good and pretty, but "black" was qualified as bad and ugly.

In addition, I remembered that the study was redone in 2006 and 2010 with similar results. I wondered, as an African-American psychologist who has worked diligently to insure that my daughter was praised for her chocolate skin from birth, what I had done wrong. What had made my beautiful brown baby not appreciate her skin color?

Scouring research on racial acceptance and identity, I had bought her only African-American dolls and encouraged others to do the same. We read books about little brown girls who looked like her and I praised them for being pretty and smart. When The Princess & The Frog came out, her father and I made sure that her room was an explosion of Disney’s first black princess. In selecting a school, we balanced a good education with making sure her school had others who looked like her. Even choosing our home was a carefully calculated move to offset any chance that she would be viewed as “the other” or “different” [with a negative connotation]. Yet, here we were, the African-American psychologist mother and her own little black child wishing to change her skin color.

In analyzing the situation to figure out where I went wrong, I quickly realized that it was not I; it was society. When my daughter looks on television, she rarely sees herself on the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon. Yes, there are female role models that I can point out like Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Serena Williams, Toni Morrison, etc. However, in the mind of a 5 year-old, those do not matter as much as Selena Gomez, Hannah Montana, or Barbie.

So, as a psychologist, I will continue to try and figure out how society can improve the self-image of African-American girls. As her mother, in that moment, I simply pulled her close, kissed the top of her naturally kinky hair, and looked into those chocolate brown eyes and reminded her how beautiful she is to her daddy, her grandparents, and to me. Perhaps the world will one day follow suit.

[Editor’s note: this article is part one of a two-part series on issues that face racially diverse children and their parents. For the author’s tips on how to help your child embrace his or her diversity, see part two.]

Dr. Tyffani Monford Dent is a licensed psychologist, motivational speaker, and author. She lectures and trains on issues of mental health disparity in minority communities, children’s and women’s issues, and sexual abuse intervention and prevention. Dr. Dent is also the Executive Director of Monford Dent Consulting & Psychological Services, LLC and the author of the book Girls Got Issues: A Woman’s Guide to Self-discovery and Healing.


Mother’s Days: Two Days for Mom

May 8, 2014

By Amelia Orozco

A "Happy Mother's Day" banner surrounds a bouquet of red, pink, and blue flowers.

On Mother’s Day, we celebrate the woman who gave birth to or raised us, and for some cultures in the United States, there are two days to do just that. This year, the United States celebrates Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 11. In Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala, May 10 is the official day to honor mothers, regardless of the day of the week on which it falls.

For families with roots in those Latin American countries who have now assimilated to U.S. culture, it is best to acknowledge mom on both of those days, even though it means celebrating twice. Besides, can there ever be too much love for mom?

In some Hispanic homes, Mother’s Day is more of a religious event where mom is regarded as highly as the Virgin Mary. Many plan to celebrate twice, starting on May 10 to make both mom and grandma feel beautiful and youthful. They may wear new outfits, get their hair done, and then their family takes them out to a special dinner. If these things are not in the budget, any mom always appreciates a clean house, a nice dinner, and a homemade greeting card.

Then, on the second Sunday of the month (U.S. Mother’s Day), many make a point of attending church with mom. This gesture is something of utmost importance for most Latina mothers, who have often turned to their faith in their pursuit of being good mothers to their children.

Afterward, there is usually a big family barbecue to celebrate all the moms in the family, with grandma as the top matriarch, of course. There is nothing more rewarding for a mother than to see her family together having a good time, eating, and appreciating her.

As a parent, you can help spread the culture of honoring mom, whatever your background may be. Volunteer to work with your child’s school to plan an event around Mother’s Day such as a pageant, making special gifts, or a special classroom visit for moms. The possibilities are endless when we work as a community to not only honor a vital member of the family, but also teach our children about different cultures and important family bonds.

Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago. A mother of three, Amelia also maintains an active role in her community and church by working with youth and promoting education and diversity through her writing and volunteer efforts.

Tags :  culturesocialmotherhoodfamily fun

Science Experiment: Liquid Rainbow in a Jar

May 7, 2014

By Jessica Vician

A girl smiles as she looks at the completed experiment.
Photography by Jennifer Shaffer Photography

Children love science, whether they know it or not. From inventing little contraptions with things they find around the house to watching what food coloring can do to hard-boiled eggs or some cake icing, activities influenced by science fascinate children of all ages.

This weekend, teach your children about density by creating a liquid rainbow in a jar. Even if they are too young to understand the concept of density, your children will enjoy mixing the liquids and watching the colorful results develop.

For this activity, you will need:

A photo of the ingredients for the experiment.

½ cup light corn syrup

½ cup blue liquid dish soap

½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup isopropyl alcohol

blue, red, and green food coloring

Let’s get started!

In a glass, use a spoon to combine the light corn syrup with one drop of blue food coloring and one drop of red food coloring.

Mixing the corn syrup with food coloring.

Pour the corn syrup mixture into a Mason jar that can hold a little more than 2 ½ cups of liquid.

Pouring the corn syrup mixture into the Mason jar.

Pour the dish soap slowly down the side of the Mason jar.

Pouring in the blue dish soap.

In a separate glass, mix ½ cup of water with two drops of green food coloring, again using a spoon.

Mixing the water with green food coloring in a separate glass.

Slowly pour this green mixture down the side of the Mason jar with the dish soap inside.

Pouring the green mixture down the side of the Mason jar, the green layers on top of the blue liquid.

Pour the vegetable oil down the side of the Mason jar slowly. At this stage, you are demonstrating to your children that oil and water don’t mix.

Pouring the vegetable oil into the Mason jar, resting on top of the green liquid.

In a separate glass, use a spoon to mix the isopropyl alcohol with two drops of red food coloring.

Mixing the alcohol with red food coloring in a separate glass.

Slowly pour this red mixture down the side of the Mason jar.

The liquid rainbow in a jar is complete! Starting with a purple layer of liquid, each layer rests upon the other in blue, green, yellow, and red.

Congratulations! You have completed the science experiment and should now have a Mason jar full of colorful, layered liquids. Hopefully you and your children learned that not all liquids are created equal, as some are denser than others.

Thank you to Jennifer Shaffer for photographing this activity. Jennifer Shaffer is a Chicago-based photographer, specializing in family portraits.


Traveling with an Infant: 6 Best Practices

May 6, 2014

By Noralba Martinez

A baby sleeps in the back seat of the car as her parent drives.

Traveling with an infant is a daunting task. My children are older and easier to travel with now, but they were a handful when they were younger. The more practice you have traveling with an infant, the easier it will become, as you will learn what works best for your family. For example, ground travel was always easier for us than air travel. Here are some tips to make traveling with your infant less stressful.

  • Make a List. We have so many things in our mind that it is impossible to remember everything. Make a list to facilitate the process of packing for your trip. Be sure to include EVERYTHING you use for your infant (for example, a hotel might not have sensitive soap or cream).
  • Access Bag. Whether you are flying or traveling in a car, you will need a bag to access frequently-used items like diapers, wipes, medicines, formula, snacks, extra clothes, a blanket, and toys to make the trip comfortable for your infant. Keep this bag accessible.
  • Think Clean. Always carry anti-bacterial solution, a changing pad, wipes, and a first-aid kit.
  • Air Travel. If you are flying, remember that breast milk, baby formula, and baby food are considered medical necessities and can exceed 3.4 ounces. Your baby will need to be screened by TSA, but you can consult with the Transportation Security Officer if you have concerns or questions. Before takeoff, have your baby suck on something (pacifier or bottle) to avoid pain from the change in air pressure.
  • Road Trip. Make frequent stops if you are traveling a long distance to allow time to take your baby out of his or her car seat to stretch. Use car shades on the windows to avoid sunburns and play familiar baby music to calm your baby in the car if needed.
  • Schedule. Attempt to stay on or close to your baby’s schedule. Keep him or her alert during the day and try to keep nap times on schedule to avoid confusion and over-tiring.

Remember to have fun and enjoy your time with your baby. Don’t over-stress. It gets easier to travel after you do it over and over.

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