Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Affirmations for Black Children

Here we are, at the beginning of a fresh school year! If you're like me, you feel a sense of renewal and energy. I want to encourage you to take advantage of this change by committing to affirming your Black child this school year.

I've said it many times. The world works really hard to tear down children of color. So we, as parents, must work even harder to build our kids up.

Now, affirmations are certainly not the ONLY way to do this, nor should they be. I've written several posts on things parents must do for their transracial adoptees. Some suggestions including finding a mentor for your child.

Affirming our kids is critical. They "hear," every day, that they aren't good enough. They are told they are less-than by peers and adults via stereotypes and prejudice. They are told by the media that they should be sidekicks (the token Black friend//the diversity) or villains, not protagonists. They are told by advertisers and children's toy companies that they should have limited options and access to representation. 

The thing is, affirming your kids is such a beautiful, wonderful tradition that can make their day. So, why not? Here are the details:

How do you affirm a child? 

1: Commit to affirm your child once a day

I prefer mornings, affirming my kids as they head out the door to school. This provides a moment of connection and encourages them to have a great day. An alternative is to affirm your child when you say good-night.

2: Create an affirmation.

For my family, it's easy to have one affirmation per child. But I have four kids. For those with fewer kids, you might have several affirmation options that you rotate. Whatever works!  

When creating an affirmation, keep in mind your child's age, development, ability, interests, personality, and preferences. There aren't any hard-and-fast rules about how long an affirmation needs to be---just make sure it does the job: affirming the child.

How do you create the affirmation? 

1: Write one together.

This is the option I opted for my kids. I wanted to make sure their affirmations were personalized, and since I'm a writer...

But for those who aren't down with creating one, there's another option.

2: Recite from a favorite song, poem, speech, or book.

Use one of your child's favorite racially affirming books, songs, or poems and pull lines from it to recite. If your child is too young to memorize, you can always do the parent-say-and-child-repeat method I share in my son's affirmation below.

How do you choose a source? Think of Michelle Obama's speech quote: "When they go low, we go high." Check out lyrics from songs, like I share in my toddler's affirmation below. Children's picture books are another great place to look. For example, my son loves the book Hey, Black Child.  You can also check out inspiration from the girl's poetry book my older daughters and I authored

A post shared by Rachel Garlinghouse (@whitesugarbrownsugar) on

How to Carry Out an Affirmation

1: Face to face and eye contact! If the child is comfortable, a gentle touch such as hand-in-hand or hand-on-shoulder. Don't be afraid to experiment with volume level (some kids might prefer a whisper, while some might want to shout!) and intonation.

2: Affirm.

You can do this in a number of ways.

Parent state, child repeat. 

This is what I do for my son's affirmation. Adding hand motions or body movements can be fun for younger or active kids.

Parent state to child.

When you're parenting a young child, a child with speech issues, a child who is shy/introverted, or a child who is non-verbal, this is a great option.

Child state aloud in front of a parent.

Some kids will enjoy stating the affirmation themselves with an "audience" (that's you!). Be sure to cheer, high-five, or hug when the child is done.

Tape to the bathroom mirror. 

If you aren't available in the morning to send your child off to school or childcare, write out the affirmation and tape to the bathroom mirror.

Put a note in the child's folder or lunchbox.

Write the affirmation on an index card or post-it and place in your child's supplies for the day. It's fun to sometimes hide the note so they'll be surprised.

A text.

Tweens and teens might enjoy getting a text from their parents during the day or when you're apart. Though I certainly advocate for in-person affirming when possible.

What are my kids' current affirmations?

My six-year-old son's, used with parent stating and child repeating with hand and body motions:

-I'm strong. (He repeats and does "big muscles.") 
-I'm smart. (He repeats and points to his brain.) I'm silly. (He repeats and wiggles his entire body).  
-I'm a good big brother.  (He repeats and reaches up high.) ----I'm a good little brother. (He repeats and places his hand down low.) 
-I'm brown. (He repeats and strokes one arm with the opposite hand.)  
-And I'm awesome. (He repeats.)

My tween's:

Me to her: Go do...

Her: my Black girl magic.

My eight-year-old's

We do the Wakanda forever arm gesture to each other.

My toddler's:

I sing some lyrics from Brown Skinned Girl to her, or we sing the "I Love My Hair" song from Sesame Street.

Here's the deal:

It only takes a few seconds to make a big difference in your child's life. Affirm away, parents!

Let's chat about affirming our kids! Join me on Facebook and drop your experiences, tips, questions. Also, if you drop your e-mail addy here, you'll never miss a new blog post! Plus, I send you three free e-gifts as a thank you. 

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