How I’m trying to become a better ally by educating my kids

As part of Zone’s Pride celebrations, our content director Laura Goss discusses how she teaches her young children about identity, equality and kindness…

Image courtesy of The Girls by Lauren Ace

For me, part of learning to be a better ally is to do a better job of teaching my kids (nearly two and nearly four) about identity, equality and kindness. I thought I’d share a couple of things that I try to do…

Books

Children learn so much through stories — they’re a great vehicle for starting to explore big ideas. The books you choose have power! Representation of LGBTQ+ communities is getting better in children’s books, but it’s still not great.

Here are a couple I love…

https://jesslove.format.com/julian-is-a-mermaid
  1. Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

This is such a wonderful picture book. It’s so simply and beautifully told — Julian dreams about being a mermaid. He finds a way to express his mermaid self and is rewarded with love, acceptance and joy.

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-girls/lauren-ace/jenny-lovlie/9781848578432

2. The Girls by Lauren Ace

Another picture book, it follows the life-long friendship of four very different girls who hang out under an apple tree. I like it because it shows different kinds of future a kid might aspire to, professionally, personally and emotionally.

https://www.ibramxkendi.com/antiracistbaby

3. Antiracist Baby by Ibram X Kendi

As you might guess from the title, this story introduces children to anti-racism… and I love it because it’s illustrated with lots of different flavours of families, which makes it easy to start a conversation that’s easy to understand.

Pronouns

I really didn’t notice until I had kids how often people defer to ‘he’ when referring to…inanimate objects, birds, woodlice, basically everything except boats. So, in a rage with the patriarchy, I started to use ’she’ for everything. But then I recently read that it’s a good idea to start using ’they’ to help children get used to the idea that it’s not necessary to assign gendered labels to everything.

Laura’s son

Play

The thing that is most fun about playing is doing whatever you want and having total freedom with it. The idea of girl stuff/boy stuff is deeply ingrained. When I first had my little girl, I found myself keeping things like dolls and sparkles out of the house because GIRL THINGS DON’T EXIST — BE STEM IMMEDIATELY AND SMASH THE PATRIARCHY etc.

But then I realised that restricting anything isn’t really helpful (or kind); the thing that matters is choice. My daughter and son are happiest dressed up as two Elsas belting out ‘Let it Go’, so that’s exactly what they should be doing. I think it’s also important to make sure the people looking after your children are singing from the same hymn sheet. A friend of mine had to step in at nursery when she found out her little boy ‘wasn’t allowed’ to wear the Anna costume. It was resolved quickly and without animosity — it simply hadn’t occurred to the staff that all of the children should be free to dress up in all of the costumes.

Laura’s daughter and son in their Elsa costumes

That’s my ten cents. In my experience, the most useful intel when it comes to kids comes from other people. So if you have any ideas, recommendations or stories to share, please do!

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