By Julie Diamond
March 8 is International Women’s Day. Today is an opportunity to reflect on women’s achievements and raise awareness against bias. It’s a day to act for equality in the hopes of a world free of bias and discrimination. Depending on your child(ren)’s age, it may be challenging to know how to teach them about today. Here are some age-appropriate ways to approach this topic that you can choose from:
Refrain From Using Gender Stereotypes
Tell your son it’s okay to show emotions. Encourage your daughter to make her own choices and give her the opportunity to express opinions. As parents we may not realize our own gender biases so take a moment to reflect and make changes. Instead of commenting on your daughter's appearance, try praising her on not giving up or finishing something challenging.
Start with a Discussion
Depending on your child’s age and/or interest level, they may have questions about International Women’s Day. You may want to focus on a particular issue such as healthcare, employment, the women’s suffrage movement, equality, or education. Start by explaining that things used to be different in Canada and women and girls still face inequality issues everyday.
A great way to introduce your child to the barriers girls face with education is the story of Malala Yousafzai. She has several children’s books available for all ages that illustrate her story about standing up for education at the risk of being shot by the Taliban. She is a children and women’s rights activist and the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Or if your child is interested in learning about the women’s suffrage movement, here’s a website that gives an interactive map about the timeline of the movement across Canada.
Let their interests guide you. Or use a book or movie..
Introduce a Book or Movie
Regardless of age, I find a book or movie is the best way to introduce a topic to a child. Kids learn best from what they see so the best way to teach them is with strong and confident female characters your child can learn from. Disney’s Frozen and Mulan have become mainstream favourite movies. There’s also Anne of Green Gables, Little Women (both are also in book form for 10+) that are classics. Some fiction books I would recommend are: The Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires or Kelly for President by Kelly DiPucchio. A non-fiction book that's great for all ages is Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky.
Spend Time with the Women in Your Lives
Your child will learn by the examples set by women in their lives as well. Whether it be your female neighbour, relative or family friend, take this day to spend time with them and make it special, whether it’s in-person or video. Encourage your child to write them a letter (see our IG post last Friday as an example) or cook them a meal to show the women in their lives how they inspire them.
Help Your Daughter Find Her Voice
Encourage your daughter to build her confidence through journaling, singing, a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) activity, or playing a sport. With the Paralympics on now, cheer on a female athlete either on the tv or at a local sporting event. PBS has a great article with tips on how to raise a confident girl here.
How are you celebrating the day with your child? Comment below.
Julie Diamond is a certified teacher in Canada and the founder of Teachers to Go.
Julie Diamond speaking at the OISE conference for Alternative, Innovative and Inspiring Career Paths for Teachers at the University of Toronto.
Jenna Srigley is the administrative assistant at Teachers to Go and offers invaluable insight as a mom of 2 teens.