What the back-to-school guides don’t tell you…
The unique set of challenges faced by Black children in preschool, elementary, middle and high school environments require parents to be informed and involved as they prepare their kids for school and advocate for them during the education process.
It begins with preschool. The U.S. Department of Education reveals that although Black kids make up only 18 percent of preschool enrollment, they represent almost half of preschool children suspended. Preschool kids get suspended for things like biting, kicking, talking back and name calling. You can work with your preschooler to avoid these behaviors and situations, and to develop de-escalation strategies.
Set clear behavioral expectations with your preschooler, get them to understand and agree. Reward them with praise and special attention when they do. Help your preschoolers with their words, like teaching them to say “I’d like to play with that toy now,” or “please don’t touch my hair.” Experts agree, your preschool child will feel much more comfortable with the experience if you have them on a consistent, set routine. Drop them off and pick them up at the same time in the same place and try to avoid any inconsistencies in their preschool experience.
According to a Brookings study, “…many of the service providers within the educational system do not cultivate the full potential of Black male students.” But you knew that already. And it’s not just Black boys that suffer. That same study notes that Black girls are expelled at higher rates than other races and are equally underserved. So when it comes right down to it, it’s up to parents and guardians to make sure their kids, boys and girls, do perform to their full potential. And that’s hard, but it’s doable.
Institutionalized racism and sexism means that parents have to be intentional with their support for their Black girls and boys. So what does that look like?
Black families are several times more likely than white families to discuss race with each other. And that’s a good thing because a discussion of race, racism and the realities of a multiethnic society is an important place to start – even with younger kids. Start with the positives: “black girl magic” and “black boy pride”. If your kids feel good about themselves, they’ll be more likely to take things in stride. But let them know the negatives as well, and give them tools for turning around racism and dealing with rejection or prejudice.
It’s also important to be there for your kids when they want to talk. If you have the time and energy to explain difficult experiences at school to your kids and help them work through them, it is much more likely they’ll develop healthy coping methods.
To avoid grading biases, which research tells us is a real thing, teach your child to turn in complete assignments on time. Make a calendar to remind you and them of upcoming deadlines and tests. And be sure to reinforce their efforts by rewarding completed, on time assignments with some sort of special recognition, even if it’s just an enthusiastic high-five or fist-bump. It’s a little thing, but it really does make a difference in motivation and satisfaction levels. Have your kids take pictures of their completed assignments, both for their own reward and to protect against the odd teacher who might ‘lose’ a completed assignment.
Make sure your kids’ school work is thorough and meets the requirements of their assignments. Without privilege, your kids will be held to a higher standard. Make sure they know that up front and are prepared.
To avoid the higher suspension and expulsion rates that Black children experience, teach your kids non-threatening, non-confrontational conversation and discussion techniques; along with negotiation and de-escalation skills. They’ll use those at every level of school and thank you later. Another useful technique is to help your children understand how to have positive experiences at school, as every positive interaction and event reinforces attendance and good school behavior.
Friends can be an important support system in school environments. Nurturing and caring groups of friends can be allies and advocates, on and off the school grounds. Encourage your kids to make and keep friends, while explaining very clearly what friendship involves and how to tell a true friend from a fake or insincere one. Family and church friends are important, but school friends are insulation against the many microaggressions a child may face as a minority in the educational environment. For more educational resources for kids, check out our afrokids.com and afrokids.tv sites. For more resources for parents and guardians, check out our theafrokidsfamily.com website.
Do you have your own techniques or experiences you’d like to add? Please leave us your thoughts in the comment section.
“Data Snapshot: School Discipline.” Civil Rights Data Collection. U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, Mar. 2014.