Talking to Our Children About Racism & Diversity

By Salina

On a recent trip to get my 5 year-old daughter her first pair of glasses, we came away with a little something we didn’t ask for - something which has undoubtedly left an imprint on my 5 and 7 year-old children’s self-image and identity. Something which has happened before, many times, and which will likely happen again. 

One of the employees took a good look at my brown-skinned, curly-haired children, next to my blond hair and pale skin, and decided it was her right to know exactly how this happened.

She blurted out “Oh, they are so beautiful! What is their background?” as if we were looking at a pair of pedigree dogs.

I wish I could say this was the first such experience for my children, but it was not. The relentless and pointless questions we receive imprint themselves on the very fabric of my children’s identities. These experiences tell my children that they must be different; worthy of comment after comment. White kids with white parents don’t get asked about their background, they don’t receive endless comments about how difficult it must be to manage their hair, or that their father must be “dark,” or assumptions that they are not from Canada. What makes people feel they have the right to say such things to and about my children?

I know that most people don’t mean to cause harm with their ignorant questions and comments, but the result is the same, intended or not. The result is that my children feel different, singled out. The next time you feel yourself burning with curiosity about someone’s ethnic background, I suggest you stop and ask yourself this : How would you feel if you were asked to explain your very existence to complete strangers on a daily basis, just to satisfy their curiosity?

That said, I'm not arguing that we should be colour blind (or practice what we call "whitewashing" - ignoring the existence of racism and our own role in perpetuating social injustice.) In fact, most children are curious and open about differences between people. I believe it's up to parents to open the line of communication on racial diversity without making assumptions or asking intrusive questions, so that they don’t grow up to be the eyeglass store employee in the above incident.

So how can we teach our kids to navigate our racially diverse society?

We need to teach kids to talk about race and culture in a positive way, rather than avoiding it like it’s a dirty little secret. If a friend has brown skin, it’s okay to describe him that way. Kids notice these things. My children often point out the colour of people’s skin and they are certainly aware that they have brown skin. If everybody avoided mentioning this fact around them, they would come to regard it as something shameful, something so bad that we don’t even talk about it. 

  • Help children understand race by normalizing it with exposure and lots of discussion; talk about race in a factual way, not an exotic way. 
  • Read books with as much diversity represented as possible 
  • Challenge and discuss stereotypes you and your children encounter in the media and elsewhere
  • Have dolls of a variety of ethnic backgrounds
  • Take your children to some of the many festivals and celebrations put on by various cultural communities within Ottawa
  • Make friends outside of your racial group whenever the opportunity arises 
  • Avoid making assumptions about people based on appearance
  • Teach kids the truth about Canada - which is that unless you are First Nations, your ancestors were immigrants at some point; this country does not belong to one group more than another
  • Teach your children to look at the world with an open mind and to treat others as they would like to be treated

We have enormous power as parents to shape the next generation; let’s use our power to create a better future for all of our children.

Salina Sunderland is the mother of three children ranging in age from 6 to 21.  She is also a private home daycare provider and cares for five additional children on a daily basis.  She is passionate about celebrating diversity, challenging stereotypes, and helping children build a strong foundation of respect and understanding. You can contact her at or check out her daycare website 

Looking for Sleepy Dust for Your Children?

By Amanda DeGrace, owner of Little Lotus Yoga How many times a day do we as adults pause and concentrate on a slow and relaxed breath? If you are like me or many of my clients we don’t do it often enough. We spend our days moving from one appointment to the next, groceries, laundry, cook, clean up, bathtime for the kids, bedtime routine, repeat.

The next time you find yourself running from one task to another take a moment to pause and just notice your breath. Is it shallow or deep and full? Our children feel our energy and can feed off that. When we are feeling stressed then our children can become stressed. When we feel calm, cool and collected then our children do as well.

Many times I hear from our awesome mamas and papas that their children have a challenging time settling into bed at night. They toss and turn, can’t get comfortable and end up wide awake for hours.

Here are some tips and tricks that may help your children in settling in for a quiet and peaceful evening.


In a soft voice guide your child through the following meditations:

This guided meditation is appropriate for school age children and pre-teens.

Sit or lie down comfortably and try to close your eyes. Make any little movements that your body would like to make to make yourself as comfortable as possible.

Try to close your mouth and breathe in and out of your nose. Notice what it feels like when you breathe in and out of your nose. I am going to ask you some questions and just think about them in your mind for a moment without speaking out loud.

(parents- pause for a few moments in between each question)

Do you feel your breath as it enters and leaves your nose?

Do you feel your belly and chest expanding as you breath in and getting smaller as your breath leaves your body?

What does it feel like when you slow your breathe down and take a deep slow breath and then let it go slowly as well?

Try to follow your breath with your mind as it enters through your nose, travels deep down into your belly. Feel your belly grow and expand and then fill your ribs and your chest. Follow your breath with your mind as it all leaves back through your nose. Let the air in your chest leave first. Then your ribs.Then your belly.

Continue to follow the wave of your breath as it slowly enters and then leaves your body.

This guided meditation is appropriate for toddlers and preschoolers.

Lie down on your back and close your eyes. Place your hands lightly on your belly. Try to lie very still and quietly. Close your mouth and breath in and out of your nose.

Feel your belly move up and down as you breath. Your belly is just like a balloon. Fill your belly up with air and it expands like when you blow up a balloon. When you breathe out feel your belly get small again just like a balloon does when you let the air out of it. 

Imagine your belly is a balloon and blow your belly balloon up really really big and then let it get very very small again. Try to blow your balloon up slowly and softly.

Some children may be resistance to lie or sit to listen to a guided meditation at first. Try not to push them into it. Allow for self-discovery and join in with them. Lie down with your child, hold their hand or rub their belly or back, and softly allow your mind and body experience the guided meditation as well.

From my family to yours I am sending lots of sleepy vibes!

Namaste Amanda

Eye Exams for Children

Did you know that eye exams are recommended for children as young as 6 months old? The Canadian Ophthalmological Society urges parents to seek an initial eye exam at this age to help with early detection of vision problems that can contribute to developmental delays, educational setbacks, and behavioural problems in children with difficulty seeing properly. Well, we didn't exactly make the 6 month appointment, but I finally got both girls in at 20 months and 4.5 years :) Although many schools and doctors will provide simple eye screening tests, a true eye exam should be performed by a Doctor of Optometry (Ophthalmologists are MDs who specialize in disorders of the eye, and you do not need to see one for an eye exam. However, you may be referred to an ophthalmologist in the event of eye disease or surgery).


A simple Google search will pull up a number of different optometrists. I screened through several of the websites, and found one that I liked just down the road. Dr. Bender was really welcoming and professional, and made my girls feel right at home.


The Dr. performed a number of tests, and they related to my daughter's level of comprehension and verbal abilities. My 4.5 was able to read letters of the alphabet, whereas my youngest is barely talking. I was amazed what the doctor could learn just by using various instruments!


So far, their eye health is great, with just a couple things to look out for down the road. It gives me comfort knowing that we've had them checked out. Most eye disease is preventable, and there are clear signs that doctors can spot during exams that you may not even notice. Just because you can see doesn't mean nothing is wrong :)

And bonus? Eye exams under 20 years of age are covered by OHIP!

Autism on the Hill - April 2

Did you know that 1 in 88 children have autism? And if you're looking at stats for boys (it is more common for boys to be diagnosed with autism than girls), the number jumps to 1 in 54. This statistics are from the U.S., but are often quoted her in Canada because the prevalence of autism isn't being monitored here. These stats are from 2012, so speculation is that these numbers have likely increased. Province to province there are vast differences in the amount and type of support that parents receive. If you start to look at what's going on, it can make your head spin. This is why it's important for government leaders to be aware of what families are facing - both on the federal and provincial levels.

Autism on the Hill is a peaceful event designed to raise awareness about autism. On April 2, families and friends of children and adults who are affected by autism will gather at Parliament Hill for the second year in a row. This event is being coordinated by Suzanne Jacobson of QuickStart - Early Intervention for Autism (a fantastic organization you'll want to connect with if you have a young child on the spectrum).



brandon-aviationBefore I ever had kids, I knew there was a chance I'd have a child with ASD because I have three families members who are all on the spectrum. Autism has brought a lot of unexpected challenges into our life, but I wouldn't wish it away for even a minute. My son wouldn't be the person he is if he didn't have autism and I adore my sweet little boy.

More and more children are having special needs identified - from developmental disorders (like autism) to food allergies and intolerances. The more we raise awareness of the diversity of needs to be met amongst our young children, the easier it will be for them to find support and understanding within the community as they grow into adulthood.


Karen Wilson is a mom to Brandon, wife to Matt and business owner trying to juggle all three while laughing through each day at the antics of her husband and son. So, it's understandable when she drops a ball here and there. Right?

Kids and Technology

I read an article the other day talking about how kids today have too much too soon and are too plugged in. The article advocated simplifying your kids’ lives, ridding them of stuff and eliminating their screen time. I admit I’m a little biased. I work in social media. I will also admit that I’m a helicopter mom who feels more comfortable knowing where my kids are and knowing that they can get in touch with me if they need to.  But I also really believe that if parents limit the access their child has to the technology out there, they will be at a real disadvantage as they grow.

I know we all hear about the downside of kids using the Internet. The concerns range from less imaginative play and less outdoor time to the potential dangers that are inherent from going online. As a mom, I do want my children to be well rounded. However, I worry when I hear other parents say that they don’t let their kids watch TV, use the Internet and that they will not be allowed to get cell phone.

Let’s face it. We live in a digital age. I enjoyed playing computer games with my girls when they were little to help them learn their numbers and letters; I love that the Internet makes a wealth of information available at their fingertips and I sleep better at night knowing my older daughter has a cell phone. Here are some reasons why I love my digital kids:

Keeping in Touch

My girls use email to keep in touch with far away friends and family. They can email, chat, text and share pictures with their friends. They are improving their communication skills by writing to their friends in their emails and they use their imagination to create videos to share with each other. I do keep a close eye on their communication with their friends but I like the fact that my girls are finding new ways to stay in touch with their friends.

Knowledge is Power

Look it up is a familiar refrain at our house. When my girls ask a question that I can’t answer (which is a lot, unfortunately), I will tell them to look it up. By using the Internet to find out about their world and the people in it, I really think they are expanding their world view. My girls love look at pictures and videos of other cultures, they like finding out about new places and they love looking up recipes to try in our kitchen.  I also think that needing to look things up helps my girls to develop the ability to think critically as they learn how to navigate the search engines.

Safety Issues

As I said before, I’m a helicopter parent. I’m not proud of it and I am doing my best to overcome this affliction but the fact that my 12 year old has a cell phone certainly helps.  Because of her cell phone, I let her go to the mall, movies and walk to her friend’s house on her own. All I ask is that she texts when she gets there.  Her having a cell phone lets me breathe (a very slight) bit easier. But still.

We are living in a world where computers and technology are part of almost every job out there. It makes sense that kids today need to have the skills that will help them later on in life. I do limit my girls’ screen time and in our house there is a big difference between using the Internet for school research or for fun. But I do admit that I think it’s really important that they are learning how to access information they need and that they are learning how to communicate properly in this digital age. I also like the fact that I’m around to monitor their activities so they learn proper Internet safety. I won’t always be there so, in my opinion, the earlier they learn how to stay safe, they better.

What do you think about kids and technology?

Ali is a psychotherapist, blogger, social media enthusiast and chocoholic. She is also a Dance Mom to two awesome girls. She is the owner of Second Act Consignment Dancewear and creator  of Therapy Stew. She blogs at AliGoldfield.

Image Source: Morguefile