Helping Kids Deal with Being Different: Bilingual Babes
One of the things I love about being involved in the “blogosphere” is getting to know like-minded mamas from around the world. One such amazing woman is Tallulah from Bilingual Babes. I came across her blog recently through Bicultural Mom, another great multicultural blog. Since then Tallulah and I have become fast friends, and I was thrilled when she agreed to write a guest post for me.
Of course, I was impressed by her efforts to raise her children to be bilingual in French and English as well as teaching them some Twi (a native language of Ghana). I was also struck by the pains she has taken to make sure her children are surrounded by positive images of people of all colors. She has done extensive research on multicultural products for kids, which is a wonderful resource for anyone with children in their lives. (You can find a full list of products on the sidebar of her main page).
Since we are dedicated to raising our toddler to be proud of his bicultural heritage (part of being a world citizen), I was curious about how someone with Tallulah’s expertise handled her school-age children’s growing awareness of being “different” than other kids. Besides learning three languages at home, Tallulah’s adorable children are also multicultural and multiracial. How has this affected them as they have moved out into the world and met other children?
I’m sure you’ll enjoy Tallulah’s response as much as I did! And stay tuned for my own guest post on Tallulah’s blog coming soon!
You’ll notice that I put the word ‘different’ in quotes… because after all, we are all ‘different’, no one human being is precisely the same as any other, such is the marvel of people! But of course sometimes people will be singled out for apparently being different to others, and this is one of the hardest things for our children to learn about our world.
We want our children to feel confident, we want them to approach the world with a smile, we want them to be happy deep within. I do believe that the foundation for this comes from home life and family, but we need to be ready for the day when our children notice that not everyone feels quite as we do, and that there are some terrible injustices done in the world in the name of supposed difference.
There are several ways in which children can be made to feel different, here are the ones that immediately spring to mind for my children:
In our case, my children have access to their Papa’s culture of Ghana, and also to that of France, which as a Francophile and through their French school, we have sort of adopted! So far, these ‘extra’ cultures have only served to enrich my children’s lives. Initially when people noticed Schmoo speaking French and asked her about it, she would actually say that she was French!
Because French is the culture of the school, they are not going to be considered different there. And when anything about Twi or Ghanaian culture comes up, Schmoo is always proud to say that she speaks ‘Ghana’ (not strictly true, she can say a few words!) and that we eat ‘Ghana food’. So far, so good 🙂
Again, because we stopped speaking French out and about when they were quite young, it’s not really come up as an issue. They mainly talk the language at school, where nearly all the children are bilingual, so again, no-one is going to feel singled out for it!
This is the one that has caused us some issues!
I work hard to ensure that my children are represented in all the media we have in the home, be it films, books, clothing, bags, etc. But the outside world is not like this. Most of the images targeted at them in the West are of white children, or with non-white children in a supporting role only.
I notice that my daughter often draws princesses with long, golden hair and pink skin, although she has also drawn lots of images of herself and favourite characters with brown skin. It feels like a constant battle between those images I show her at home and those she’s shown everywhere else!
Schmoo recently had her first experience of negative comment on her skin colour. A child in her judo class said that she was the colour of poo. But I was soooo proud of how she handled it! She riposted that she wasn’t the colour of poo, she was the colour of chocolate 🙂
I think that, at the end of the day, children are always going to experience some negativity, but if we teach them to feel good about the skin they’re in, they’ll be much better able to deal with whatever is thrown at them. And hopefully to enjoy the differences of every single other human being!
To read more from Tallulah, be sure to visit her amazing blog, Bilingual Babes!
This post has been shared at Taming the Goblin’s Kids Co-op, The Magic Onions’ Friday Nature Table, Say Not Sweet Anne’s Sweet Sharing Monday, Rainy Day Mum’s Tuesday Tots, and Crystal and Company’s Mommy Club.