DEAR HARRIETTE: My only child just turned 6. We just moved, and I put him in private school. Lately, he's been having trouble understanding why he doesn't look like his other classmates. He asks me constantly why is his skin darker and why doesn't their hair curl up even when it's wet? I told him that everyone comes from different backgrounds. The one we come from has a sad but courageous and interesting history. It also means that we're darker than some ethnicities. This school does have a majority of white and Southern American kids.
I don't want my baby questioning himself on a daily basis because nobody else looks like him. He tells me that he misses the previous school because the kids looked like him and everyone was "nice and brown like me." How do I get my son to love who he is and how he looks before this becomes a real identity issue? He needs to learn those developmental skills and how to deal with social issues like this. -- Schools and Social Issues, Washington, D.C.
DEAR SCHOOLS AND SOCIAL ISSUES: Teach your son about his cultural heritage, but without apology. Teach him stories of courage and strength. Tell him about your family heritage, and show him examples of people who look like him. Don't leave the school, but add extracurricular activities that put him in contact with people of your cultural background. You can round out his experience so he can feel safe and prosper.