By Kavitha Emmanuel
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Turn around.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Touch the ground.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Polish the shoes.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Off to school.
Here’s a cute rhyme we teach kids to motivate them to go to school. But our children aren’t teddy bears in the first place and they need more than just ‘shoes’ to go to school.
As parents, let’s make sure that our kids are well-prepared to face the next year in school.
I want to urge parents everywhere to not just look out for your child’s academic performance but also for their physical safety and emotional well-being as well. This will go a long way in grooming your child to be the best that they can be.
Parents have talked to me about their child being bullied in school for their skin colour. Children hurt within when they see their ‘fairer’ siblings or friends get more attention and are chosen for school performances. One parent recalled how no one wanted to sit next to her child in school because she was dark. I have spoken to grown-ups who have shared how this bias forced them to retreat into a shell or has affected their sense of self-esteem.
Our child needs our attention towards their emotional needs. Let’s not ignore them. Let’s not forget to speak words of affirmation and love every day! If there is any clear instance of skin colour bias in the child’s school please do address it with their teacher and school authorities.
Another area we need to watch out for is the child’s physical safety at school. Talk to your child about safety. Don’t simply give out instructions like: ‘don’t go there!’ or ‘don’t talk to strangers.’ Spend time talking with them about why those instructions are important. This can be done without instilling fear into the child but for the purpose of inculcating good sense and understanding. There are numerous resources and counseling material available to aid parents with these tough conversations.
Please remember that most often physical abuse happens in known surroundings with known people. The abuser often wins the trust of the child and the family. Don’t ignore a child’s comments like: ’the driver gave me a chocolate and only me’ or ‘I don’t like the way my teacher hugs me’ or even ‘don’t ask uncle to pick me up. I don’t like waiting at their place till you come home’. Let us listen, observe, and see if the child is trying to communicate something beyond those words. Watch out for changes in behavior and emotional outbursts!
Learning to listen to our children’s emotional needs is as important as meeting their physical needs. We live in a more complicated world than we were used to as children. Children have increased access to media with a growing need to discern these media messages every day. We live busier lives today which may lead to missing our children’s warning signals. Let’s cultivate the habit of spending quality time with our children. Set aside a few minutes every day where each child gets undivided attention and support to say what they want without fear of rejection. Let them feel listened to. Let them know that they can come to us when they are in trouble or when they are feeling blue. Our children need to learn to handle LIFE and not just focus on grades.
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About The Author
Kavitha Emmanuel is the Founder and Director of Women of Worth. Since 2009 she has been changing mindsets nationally and globally to end skin colour bias with the Dark is Beautiful campaign. In 2013 she began advocating safety for women and children through the Girl Arise campaign. Ms. Emmanuel has also initiated the Safe Schools Project that equips schools to proactively engage in creating safe campuses for their students.
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