As a mother, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor, it is important to me to help others and make a positive difference in people’s lives, specifically children. We all want to see our children be better and do better than us! We all want our children to have more and better exposure and opportunities than we did. This doesn’t mean that we didn’t have a good or an excellent childhood. It just means that we want better for our children! This could be in the form of traveling more, spending more time with your children, being more active and involve with your children, eating dinner together, living in safer or “nicer” neighborhoods, going to “better” schools, exposing your children to different cultures, races, and ethnicities, appropriately disciplining your child, not using corporal punishment, and so on and so on.
One of the concerns that I hear often is lack of diversity or exposure in their neighborhoods, schools, communities, etc. and people are seeking and wanting an improvement in this area. One of the reasons that I was adamant about becoming a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor was because about less than 15% of Registered Play Therapists are people of color. Many of the parents of my child clients seek me for therapy for their children because they want their child to be seen by a play therapist, who is a person of color. This could be because they feel that their child will relate better to someone that looks like them or their child need to see more people that look like them or they want their child to see someone that looks different from them. Diversity is very important because people need and want to see people that look like them, as well as people who don’t look like them.
One way to assist with improving diversity and representation is to be it! For example, if you are a person of color, you may want to volunteer your services or go to school to get a degree in an area of interest, so you can have a career in that field. If you are a male, you may want to consider becoming a therapist or a teacher or a nurse or some other area that is usually female dominated, if you have an interest. If you are a female, you may want to consider becoming an engineer or a developer or a consultant or some other area that is usually male dominated, if you have an interest. For many years, I was already providing play therapy as a psychotherapist in private practice, however, when I found out about the lack of diversity and representation in Registered Play Therapists, I decided to put in the work, time, and education, to help improve the diversity and representation that is needed. If you are a play therapist and is interested in building and maintaining a culturally and racially diverse play therapy practice, as well as share culturally and racially diverse resources, feel free to join my Facebook group, The Journey of Cultural and Racial Diversity in Play Therapy at https://www.facebook.com/groups/theplayjourney.
Also, actively seek out diversity in your friends, books, toys, tv shows, and movies. If your child looks and lives like all of his or her other friends, your child believes himself or herself to be the “norm.” In addition to having diversity in your friends, you can also actively seek out cultural and diverse events and activities to attend as a family. Parents must work with children to avoid building up walls of intolerance, prejudice, and harsh judgment. If you are interested in doing this, one thing that you can do is to join my Facebook group, The Ebony Journey at http://www.facebook.com/groups/theebonyjourney. The group is for all people who are interested in being aware and sharing information, resources, events, toys, books, activities, and articles, which emphasizes black and brown people. There is a ton of information constantly being shared on the Facebook group.
Whenever I purchase books for my children or to use with my child clients in therapy or even for other children as gifts, I look through the pages. If I don’t see any kind of diversity, for example, at least one person of color, I DO NOT purchase that book. It is important for children to see images that look like them and that look differently from them, to teach acceptance, self-love, and have a positive image of self and others. The only exceptions that I make are for character books and toys, such as DC or Marvel Superheroes, Disney Princesses and other Disney Characters, etc. “It is what it is” and Superman is white, Cinderella is white, and so on and so on. So, I will not go to the “extreme” and not purchase those books or toys for children, however, I will also make a conscious effort to purchase other books and toys, such as Black Panther, Cyborg, Princess Tiana, Princess Jasmine, Mulan, etc.
Do Not Teach “Colorblindness” or “Not To See Color”. Once when my son was about 6 years old, he asked me, “why they always have a whole bunch of peach people on shows and only one brown person?” So, as much as some people would like to believe that people, especially children, don’t see color, we all see color (and that is okay)! Children notice that people are different colors, have different hair textures, etc., as young as 3 years old. Not talking about color or teaching children to ignore it, will not stop the spread of racism! Black people and other people of color are “forced” to talk to their children about the color of their skin at a young age, in order to prepare them for times when they will be treated differently and sometimes unfairly because of the color of their skin. This is also done in an effort to teach a sense of self-pride and having a positive image, in a society where you are often taught and treated otherwise. When all children discuss color, in regard to race, and learn about racism, children usually have a more positive and less negative views of black people and other people of color. If you teach your children, “colorblindness” or “not to see color”, you are indirectly teaching your children to remain silent and possibly believe whatever hateful or negative thing that is being said, which brings me to my next tip.
SPEAK UP AND SPEAK OUT. When you hear someone make a racist comment or joke or stereotype, even if it’s your parent, family member, coworker, colleague, friend, or stranger, SPEAK UP! Speak up by challenging, defending, not tolerating, not accepting, and correcting what was said! So, at times, we must get uncomfortable and risk possibly losing friends and family, or not getting invited to the next social event. The future is in our hands, as well as the generation that we are raising, and our children are watching us!