Wednesday, November 9, 2016

An Open Letter to Latino Parents

I started this article over a week ago, but wasn’t sure I’d publish it. Now, on the night of Election Day, as I sit and watch the results coming in, I know that this letter to my readers and Latino parents throughout the U.S. needs to go live.

By the time you read this, in theory, it will finally be over; the circus that we call a presidential election will come to an end.

But you and I both know the challenges and threats to our families and children may just be beginning.

We’ve seen it steadily building over the last year. You may have read about the “build-a-wall” banner hung in an Oregon high school. Or maybe heard about the Muslim and Latino students attacked in Kansas by a man shouting, “Trump will take our country from you guys!” while calling them “brown trash.” Or perhaps you’ve read about the Latino students in North Carolina who carry around their birth certificates and Social Security cards out of fear they will be deported - the “Trump Effect” has already begun and continues to grow into a voracious monster.

And his vitriolic rhetoric is unlikely to stop on November 8th.

Add to this the problem that all of his hateful speech has given new life to every bigot, racist, and supremacist within our country who has until now been more or less restrained by the popular demand for human decency. Unfortunately, he has with his own disgusting words and actions validated their outlook leading to open, unapologetic declarations of hate and even worse, turning their words into actions.

So what do we do? We prepare. It’s time to tighten our cinturones and brace ourselves. I want us to be realistic.

The time to protect our families is here. We need to give our children the tools they need to defend themselves. Those tools include Caution, Strength, and a Voice. To avoid violence, we must talk openly with our children about the possible dangers they may encounter and prepare them to think quickly and act accordingly. We must urge them to be ever vigilant, aware of their surroundings, and mindful of who is nearby.

We must encourage them to be brave and to stand together. We must help them understand the importance of speaking up to identify those who do wrong in order to protect ourselves - and others - from future injustice. No longer do we suffer alone in silence.

Now is the time to create change together. But in order to improve our country and help it to see diversity as beautiful and beneficial, we have to be that change. We have to be kind to everyone. We have to feel compassion and be supportive. Most importantly, we have to set the example for our children, so they will be strong and proud of who they are, unafraid to share their culture. For it is ignorance that leads to stereotypes, and ignorance that causes fear and hatred.

I have faith in the American people. I know that there are more of us who want to do what is right, than there are those who choose to embrace selfish ignorance. But I also realize that change doesn’t happen overnight.

First, we have to reassure our children that they are safe and that we are here to help and protect them. We need to explain our democratic government and teach them that disagreeing with others is not an excuse for violence and hatred. Then we discuss some ways to help your children avoid bullies inside and outside of school.

Be informed


Take the time to read about bullying so that you can identify the signs.

Someone who hurts you physically, mentally, or emotionally once, unintentionally is simply foolish, rude, or ignorant.

Someone who knowingly hurts you once on purpose is mean.

Someone who knowingly hurts you repeatedly despite you asking them to stop is a bully.

Download this flyer from Edutopia for more information about what bullying is, how to identify it, and how to deal with it.

Talk with your child’s teachers


This is one of the most important steps you can take. Teachers may have a good idea of what is happening in their classroom. They see first-hand the social dynamics between students. And if they don’t see it, and your child tells you they are being bullied, then your child’s teacher and school need to be made aware of it ASAP so that they can implement strategies and tools to reduce bullying behaviors before they escalate.


Monitor your child’s tech devices and social media


In this advanced day and age, cyberbullying has become a very real problem. It’s important for parents to take it seriously. In addition to monitoring your child’s tech devices, it’s critical that you take time to talk with them about cyberbullying and discuss with them what they should do if they become victims. Check out this article to learn what steps you can take.


Teach your child how to respond


It’s critical to empower your child. Bullies are less likely to pick on strong, confident people. Either way, it’s important to arm your child with words and actions that will help them diffuse hostile situations or avoid them altogether.

Talk with your children about how to deal with insults. There are several ways a person can respond to a bully. Here are a few:

Walk away. Remember, bullies are all about control. They want to know they are hurting you. If you ignore them and walk away, you are taking that power away from them.

Laugh at them. Bullies want to be feared. If you refuse to fear them, you are taking away their sense of control. If they make fun of you for a mistake you made, and you laugh at yourself, it shows that you are confident enough in yourself to do so.

Report it. Immediately. It’s critical that you report bullying behavior to an adult. And it is important that it be an adult who will do something. If a teacher doesn’t respond, then the principal. And definitely tell your parents.


Take Precautions


The reality is that bullying can escalate. And it is up to us to keep our kids safe. If you have contacted your child’s teachers and school, and they aren’t doing anything, or if the situation is getting worse, then here are some important precautions...

Walk in groups. Teach your kids to walk together in groups with their friends and other students. There is safety in numbers.

Avoid empty spaces and other places where you might run into the bully. Train your child to be aware of their surroundings and not put themselves in dangerous situations. They should stay in places where they can call for help...and be heard.

Give them a smartphone. Teach them to use Facebook Live quickly. It’s important to document bullies and their behavior so that you have proof. It can also help you get help quickly when you need it.

Explore self-defense classes. Do not mistake this for encouragement to fight back. On the contrary. Students who take Karate or Taekwondo learn self-control and develop self-confidence. Both are important for deterring bullies. But let's face it: If my son or daughter's life were in danger, I'd want them to know how to protect themselves.

Consider homeschooling. If you truly fear for your child’s safety, then it is imperative you remove him or her from that situation. Consider moving him or her to a new school. And if that isn’t an option, think about homeschooling. Over 2 million families in this country homeschool their kids, and I can assure you, that like me, not all of them started because they wanted to or because they knew how to teach. I was scared, but I’m so glad I made the switch. My life changed for the better.

8 comments:

  1. Monica, I agree with you a 100%. I am glad to be homeschooling my kids now more than ever. This morning we cuddled in bed for a little longer than usual as I told them how proud I am of them. I told them that it will be hard sometimes, but we are not who the president elect thinks us to be. We are in need to show everyone with our actions who we are. I told them that now, more than ever, they need to be Hispanic. They need to speak Spanish, and they need to realize how important it is to be examples of what kind, respectful, loving, and caring Hispanics are all about!

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    1. Yes. Help them be proud of who they are and where they come from so that they have the strength to deal with what they must.

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  2. Not just the strengthfor what they might face, but the strength to also stand up for others who are treated with disrespect. We are not Mexicans, we are not Muslims... But my family will stand up for them. We will become Mexicans in our hearts and show the world with our actions. We will act under the Muslim belief, and wish for others only what we wish for ourselves. We all deserved to be treated well, to have neighbors we do not fear, to earn from our hard work...
    It does not stop at taking care of our own. We need to take care of each other!

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    1. Absolutely agree. We must stand up for others. And make no mistake: It's not just Mexicans or Muslims who will suffer. Anyone of obvious Hispanic heritage and non-whites are at increased risk from bullies.

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  3. Esto mismo se lo estaba comentando a mis familiares en Florida. Es momento de mantenernos firmes, unidos y dar un buen ejemplo. Hay que tomar las cosas con calma. Y lo mas importante es tener confianza para tomar las decisiones correctas. Si la gente comienza a salir corriendo, asustarse o dividirse le dan mas poder a quienes quieren hacernos daño. Tambien hay que considerar que muchas personas que votaron por este señor no son extremistas, violentos o racistas, solo piensan diferente. Pero si, estoy totalmente de acuerdo con que hay que hablar con los hijos, y saber abordar este problema que pudiera suscitarse, los bullies siempre han existido, y lamentablemente siempre existiran. Gracias por escribir esto.

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    1. Gracias, Rebecca. Tiene toda la razón: Es momento de mantenernos firmes, unidos y dar un buen ejemplo. Sus hijos no tienen que tener miedo de todos la gente que votaron de Trump, sólo los que ya han comenzado a usarlo como una excusa para hacer daño a nuestros hijos.

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  4. The assumption that Trump is somehow a threat to the safety of my Hispanic American family is a concept I can't wrap my head around. We feel much more threatened by Clinton's poor handling of our national security and the subtle threats she has made to religious liberty. My adult daughter has pointed out that the Hispanic community bears the brunt of any negative impact from illegal immigration so we have a vested interest in protecting our borders. She has also shown a complete disregard for parental rights that threatens our ability to home educate our children and to raise them according to our family values. All four of the adults in our family voted for Trump in order to stop Clinton. He's far from the ideal president but he's vastly less dangerous then Clinton in our view.

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  5. Did you actually read my blog post? This wasn't about defending your decision to vote for Trump. It's about protecting our children from the increase in bullying in our schools, which is well documented - the National Education Association has seen an alarming increase in bullying toward Hispanic and Muslim children. This article I wrote above is about protecting your children in a school setting (obviously homeschoolers aren't likely to experience this as much), especially if it is obvious that they are of Hispanic/Muslim heritage. Racism doesn't distinguish between who is here legally and who isn't.

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