Raising a Chocolate Child in a Vanilla World: Part IIMay 13, 2014
By Dr. Tyffani Dent
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.