So many parents want to raise kids who are LGBTQ allies, but it’s not always clear how to do it instead of just faking the idea, especially for non-LGBTQ families. These conversations can seem difficult, especially if you never had them in your own household while growing up.
But parents shouldn’t assume that the wedding ring is something their child will learn on their own, no matter how sweet they are.
“Unfortunately, anti-LGBTQ policies and rhetoric are all too common in our communities and institutions. Children are incredibly insightful and when they see the people around them discriminating against LGBTQ people, be it a school administrator, a classmate, or someone in public, they see this behavior as a norm, ”explained Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, Acting Executive Director of Gay. , Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), a group that works to make schools safe for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.
But raising good allies is certainly doable, and it can be done through some simple yet powerful daily strategies. Here are a few to keep in mind.
1. Rely on the books.
While the world of children’s books still has a long way to go in terms of representation, there are plenty of amazing titles that can open up family conversations about gender identity and sexual orientation. (For example, here’s a useful list of 17 of them. Or consider these 15.)
Children’s books are so powerful because they can provide children with “mirrors” (where they see their own experience or that of their family reflected on them) as well as “windows” (where they learn to care about. people whose experiences are different from theirs). Additionally, reading together strengthens bonds and builds trust between parents and children as they sit next to each other and open the pages.
“For young children, it is important to start honest conversations about difference and identity early on and to help them understand the importance of respecting all people, regardless of gender, race, disability. or any other identity, ”said Willingham-Jaggers.
“There are many picture books and other tools for young learners that can help you break down these topics in an age-appropriate way,” added Willingham-Jaggers.
Important too? Books help families educate themselves together, without parents forcing LGBTQ people to guide them.
2. Teach your children to really Listen.
As any parent knows, it’s hard to get kids to listen – really, really hard. But being a true ally depends on being able to be a good listener.
“A common faux pas that people make when trying to be allies is to focus on the conversation,” said Willingham-Jaggers. “Teaching your child to be an effective ally is about teaching him to listen to the needs of others, not to act the way he thinks others would want him to.”
It can be as simple as noticing when your child has done a good job listening to a friend or sibling and pointing it out to them, as compliments can be a very effective tool when they are clear and genuine.
But it’s also important to model good listening yourself. Some experts recommend using the acronym “WAIT” as a gut test. It means “Why am I talking? And it can be a good reminder to check your own motivations for opening your mouth.
“Teaching your child to be an effective ally is about teaching him to listen to the needs of others, not to act the way he thinks others would want him to.”
– Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, Interim Executive Director of GLSEN
3. Introduce yourself with your pronouns.
Another easy way for parents to model alliance is to introduce themselves to others with their pronouns, suggested Willingham-Jaggers.
“To show that you are committed to creating welcoming spaces and avoiding making generalizations about groups of people,” she added.
You are also helping to root children in neutral language so that they don’t have to unlearn certain habits or assumptions later down the road. That said, parents should know that learning to use non-sexist language can take a bit of practice, and that’s totally OK!
4. Consider a role play.
“There are three parts to empathy: the intellectual part where you understand what empathy is and what it does, the inner part where you actually feel what others are feeling, and the action part where you actually do something for the person you empathize with. Kai Kafferly, an Outschool educator who offers classes on LGBTQ history and the alliance, told HuffPost. “These three parts need to come together to teach empathy. “
Because children learn so much while playing, it can be helpful to experiment with different scenarios with your children where you could ask them to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and think about how they would feel. It can be done individually, Kafferly said, or sometimes in a classroom.
Don’t expect too much of children under 4, who just don’t yet have the cognitive ability to see beyond their own perspective. But for slightly older children, role play can be “a very eye-opening experience,” Kafferly said.
5. Do not protect children from difficult subjects.
Parents naturally want to protect their children, especially young children, from difficult topics like prejudice, prejudice and discrimination. And your instinct might be to keep them totally away from distressing current events.
But remember, gay people don’t have the luxury of being able to avoid discussing these topics, and avoidance only sends the message that you think they’re somehow taboo. Let your children know that you are open to their questions and that if you don’t know the answer to something, you will study it together.
Of course, do all of this in a developmentally appropriate way, without overwhelming children with too much information. Young children, in particular, need information to be clear and digestible – and you should expect to talk about these topics over and over again.
Also, know that you can start telling kids about all of this at any age, so don’t worry about missing the mark if you haven’t started yet.
“It’s never too late to learn more about the alliance,” said Willingham-Jaggers, “and teach older children the proper language and precise definitions of gender, sexuality and other aspects of identity is a great place to start. “