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No matter what your experience or lack of experience has been when it comes to race, there is no denying that your personal experience impacts what you believe and how you behave. As adults, it also affects what and how you teach your children about race. Additionally, it informs how you respond to others who may not look or act like your children do.

In the midst of protests happening across the country, people are speaking out about injustice, specifically toward black people. If you havent already, now is a really good time to develop a plan of action for intentionally teaching your children that every black person has value and dignity. In a perfect world, we would know that all are created equal. At this moment in time however, there is a major focus on how black people are treated.

A great place to start is with yourself.

Even if you never actually say what you think, how you think about black people will be the basis for how you teach your children to think about and treat them. They are taking in your conversations and watching your every move—even when you think they aren’t paying any attention. If you are comfortable around black people, they will most likely be comfortable. If you are uncomfortable, they will follow suit.

Ideally, teaching your kids about race starts when they are young, although it is never too late. Here are 8 things you can do to teach your children about race.

  1. Be intentional about creating opportunities for your children to be around and befriend children who are different from them. For example, one mother was looking for a preschool for her son, and she realized that her son would be the only black child there. At her second choice, no white children were present. In her mind, neither of these preschools were viable options because there was no diversity. She wanted her son to see at an early age that not all people are alike and that even though they look different, they can still be friends.
  2. Teach your child about character and respect. Make sure they understand how to behave respectfully toward those who are respectful and how to respond kindly to those who are not. 
  3. Model what it looks like to be treated with respect and hold them accountable for treating others in that manner to reinforce what you are trying to teach.
  4. Make it a point to be friends with families of different ethnicities. At the heart of understanding others is being in relationship with them. Engaging in someone’s world that is different than yours can help your child understand what it is like to walk in another person’s shoes. Having empathy for others is powerful.
  5. Don’t tolerate prejudice. When you see it, say and do something to address it. Teach your children how to productively use their voice when they see injustice.
  6. Be an askable parent. So often, we don’t talk about racial issues because we are afraid or it’s uncomfortable. Silence and assumptions are not helpful in the effort to end racism.
  7. Watch movies like “Remember the Titans” or read books that open the door for discussion about racism.
  8. Instead of trying to convince your child that we are all alike, celebrate how we are different, and how those differences contribute unique things to our world. A young white boy asked his black friend about getting a perm to make his hair curly. The black boy told him he didn’t get a perm, that his hair was that way when he was born. While their moms got a good laugh, it was also a teachable moment.

To end racism, we must have a continuous conversation and a commitment to be part of the solution. In doing so, we have the potential to leave a legacy that future generations can appreciate.

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VIDEO: Watch as Julie Baumgardner and Reggie Madison talk about the 9 keys to having great conversations with your children about race.

Chattanooga is home to a ton of fun events, activities, and experiences for kids of all ages!! Explore the rich history of the city, enjoy all the animals (from penguins to the average house cat), get your creative juices flowing, and more with these unique mother-daughter date ideas!

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I had this idea. A fun, whimsical baking sesh with my uber-helpful daughter, Jackie, baking a beautiful, homemade, delicious, vegan Frozen-themed cake for her 4th birthday party. I was determined to make it happen. I was going for “super mom” status as I prepared for a small family get together–turned elaborate Frozen-themed birthday extravaganza. I had already sent out the FB event invite. This was Jackie’s “un-FOUR-gettable” birthday. It was too late. I had to make it unforgettable. 

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The YMCAs and Planet Fitnesses in town and all the other gyms are packed full this week with all those that made New Year’s resolutions to lose some pounds, to better their physiques, and to get more healthy. Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? Did you set some goals for 2020? I hope they weren’t all about diet and exercise! Did you make some Relationship Resolutions for 2020?

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It’s here – that season when you throw sanity out the window and with wild abandon throw yourself full throttle into the holidays. I mean, there are things to do, people to see, places to go and only a certain amount of time to make things happen. Right?

For the most part, we’ve gotten really good at our to-do lists. We get the coveted gifts for our family, hopefully at the prices we want to pay. We plan holiday gatherings and assign tasks to our guests. We ferociously clean and shop and wrap and eat and, if we are honest, we often complain either inwardly or outwardly about how we try to make the season merry and bright for the ones we love. When that is the case, we look a lot less like Santa and a lot more like the Grinch.

Maybe you gave up aiming for the “perfect” holiday, but still find yourself stressed about all that you want to pack into the month. Even if you’ve opted for simpler moments of peace and quiet, you may find yourself wrestling with everybody else’s expectations.

In reality, the holiday season is full of opportunities for us to really be there for our friends, family and even strangers. Though it may be tempting to rush through it all and complete our to-do list with as little financial and emotional damage as possible, this season has the unique potential to create a mindshift, not only for this month, but on into the new year.

A couple of years ago, a holiday to-do list went viral, probably for a lot of reasons, but perhaps the most important is that in spite of how “connected” we say we are, people are longing for the presence of people in their lives. The list is a great reminder of ways we can be present in the lives of those we know and those we have the opportunity to get to know.

Keeping this list in mind can set the tone for how you give what you give during the holidays and beyond. It’s kind of amazing that the gift we can give to people that means the most doesn’t actually require us to spend money, but in our minds it may be the most costly present because we can’t be completely present with someone while focusing on something else at the same time. Perhaps the best present is to be present. Time is the one thing that once it’s spent, you can’t get it back.

Dr. Suess said, “Sometimes you never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” There will always be things to buy, but the moments when we give our best selves to people are what make lasting memories.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on December 7, 2019.

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A CBS piece shared the story of Dale Schroeder, a humble man from Iowa who worked as a carpenter at the same company for 67 years. He never married and had no children.

Since he had no living relatives, he approached his lawyer about a plan for his money after he passed away. When his lawyer asked him how much he was talking about, Schroeder told him, “A little shy of $3 million.” The lawyer said he almost fell out of his chair when he heard the amount.

Schroeder never had the opportunity to attend college, but he wanted to help kids from Iowa who otherwise would not have the opportunity to receive a college education. Schroeder passed away in 2005, but his legacy lives on.

In all, Schroeder provided college tuition for 33 people who call themselves “Dale’s Kids.” They are now teachers, therapists and doctors, among other professions, all without any college debt thanks to Schroeder. While none of them can thank Schroeder personally, they can pass on his generosity to others.

Certainly, giving financially to a worthy cause is one way to be generous, but that’s not the only way. You can also be generous with giving your time or lending a listening ear.

For example, a 90-year-old woman sent a note to her next door neighbor saying she was lonely, scared and had no friends. She asked the neighbor if she would consider spending some time with her. Sometimes just your presence is an incredibly generous gift.

However you choose to be generous, here’s the really cool thing: not only does it benefit the person you are helping, it also benefits you.

“Helping is love made visible in acts of generosity small and large,” says best-selling author of Why Good Things Happen to Good People, speaker and Stony Brook professor, Stephen G. Post.

Post says that generosity is good for our self-esteem and well-being. In a study of people over the age of 65, those who volunteered in the past scored higher in life satisfaction and had fewer symptoms of sickness. Those who did not volunteer proved to be sicker and unable to give to others. Post believes that feeling happy and connected to others are fundamental components to overall health, and that being generous with others forms bonds that are meaningful which then increases our happiness. Being a generous giver actually makes us want to be more giving in the future.

Post also finds that generosity is empowering. It inspires others to be compassionate and pay it forward.

“When the happiness and security of others is as meaningful to you as your own, you are a person of love and you will flourish,” Post says.

Being generous is contagious. When someone else is generous to you, it encourages you to be generous to others, too. Giving of your time and resources can really feel good, and it has the potential to create a ripple effect of kindness in your home and community. Giving to others is powerful and makes for happier, healthier people.

Think about the many ways you have experienced blessings from others and the chance you have to bless people you know, as well as perfect strangers. The good news is, you don’t have to have saved $3 million dollars in order to be generous.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on November 23, 2019.

Image from Unsplash.com

I’m currently writing this while sitting at a coffee shop on a rainy afternoon, and there is a table of three very chatty, obnoxious, silly, giggly 12-year-old girls directly hovering over cinnamon rolls and muffins directly in my line of sight. 

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I don’t have any kids, so maybe I can’t be the one to suggest parenting skills. I can’t relate to you parents out there, but I can definitely relate to your teen. I’m 22 years old, and I vividly remember high school. I remember being that overly-dramatic teenager. I remember having those awkward and insecure moments as a teen. I remember what it felt like to want to be different, but sometimes conforming to peer pressure so I could fit in. High school is HARD.

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As I think back to when my children were first born, there are many memories that come to mind of being bombarded with all the things that babies need. I remember attending a presentation for a $1,000 high chair. It was implied that if I didn’t purchase the high chair, I really didn’t love or wasn’t very concerned about the safety of my child. And I’ll admit, I began to struggle with the paradox of what my child needs versus what I want my child to have.

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A young man burst into the medical office, walked right around the counter and grabbed my wife. This rude interloper hugged her tightly, crying, saying “I love you so much, Mom!” My wife was shocked and then delighted and touched. They had a wonderful, spontaneous, tear-filled moment right there in her office in front of staff and patients. This is certainly not typical teenage boy behavior. What prompted this sudden outpouring of emotion and affection from my teenage son?

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