When it comes to parenting, we may all struggle with how to give our children the best tools, education, and support to grow into responsible, well-rounded, and kind people. I often turn to books on parenting to help. These are three of my favorites, all offering clear, concise, and actionable guidance without overloading me with information.
They also cover issues I care about; using sustainable practices, developing my multicultural children’s identity, and teaching compassion and kindness. Each author also answered a few questions about their areas of expertise (please note some answers were condensed to fit in this article.)
Read on for more on my top three parenting books plus check out brief Q&A interviews with the authors, Shannon Brescher Shea, Farzana Nayani, and Rachel Tomlinson.
1. Growing Sustainable Together: Practical Resources for Raising Kind, Engaged, Resilient Children
Tips, tools, advice, and activities for raising eco-friendly kids while nurturing compassion, resilience, and community engagement.
Meet the Author
With everything going on with the pandemic, why do you think it is so important for parents to continue to focus on being sustainable?
The definition of “sustainable” means to be able to do something for a long period of time at the level you need to do it. Don’t we all want some of that reassurance right now! For environmental sustainability, environmental activities help children understand how their actions impact the larger world, connect them with neighbors and family, builds life skills like responsibility, and provides them with ways to change unjust systems. The activities that are outside like gardening, biking/walking, and outdoor volunteering also ground us in a sense of place, which is especially important right now, as so many of us have so much anxiety.
How can we make our favorite outdoor activities more sustainable?
Hiking is a great way to talk about how we’re part of nature. It can build a sense of wonder in kids and help them care more deeply about natural systems. Talking about leave no trace principles can help you be more sustainable on the trail.
What has been your biggest struggle as a parent with teaching kids to be sustainable?
Time. I have a long commute and, until COVID, always felt like I never had enough time with my kids. (With being on telework since March, this is less of an issue!)
2. Raising Multiracial Children: Tools for Nurturing Identity in a Racialized World
The essential guide to parenting multiracial and multiethnic children of all ages and learning to support and celebrate their multiracial identities.
Meet the Author
What are some of your favorite activities to help engage in these discussions with younger children versus older children?
With the virtual world we live in, there are a lot of options like cultural experts teaching kids programs on art, music, or religion. There is a lot more conversation now because virtual learning allows us to access people across the world.
Do you think there has been less of an emphasis on identity due to the pandemic?
We are more involved in our children’s lives with the racial issues were facing as a country. I think it’s definitely more polarizing and, as parents, it’s our responsibility. If we just love our kids we think that’s enough, but that’s not enough right now. Noticing differences, taking charge, and destigmatizing that difference is important.
So as I take my kids around the neighborhood, there are signs for Black Lives Matter. I have to tell them what that means, it’s my duty and so … when there are protests or things on the news, I do have to say something.
How do you handle when people ask you if children are too young to have these conversations?
Kids are having them already. When my younger child was in preschool, his classmate brought something up and I wasn’t prepared to have that conversation so soon, but I had to have it right then.
I had a choice: I could talk about it or brush it off. Kind of like talking about the birds and the bees, don’t you want to be the one to inform them?
What has been your biggest struggle as a parent with nurturing the identity of your children?
There’s pressure for kids to fit in and sometimes not wanting to be different. Just like anything else. Being multiethnic—the multitude of those layers—and not having family close to us to connect with, [I struggle] with how we can keep the legacy and learning alive.
3. Teaching Kids to Be Kind: A Guide to Raising Compassionate and Caring Children
A simple and sweet parenting book with 365 tips—a new one to try every day!
Meet the Author
With everything going on with the pandemic why do you think it is so important for parents to continue to focus on teaching kindness to children?
Because of social distancing and lockdown or restrictions in certain areas, many people are becoming isolated. One direct way we can counteract stress (and associated impacts on our body and mood) is with kindness and compassion. Helping our children intentionally choose to be kind and compassionate, also brings them a sense of control or autonomy over their world (rather than the current fear and unknown), which increases self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth.
Do you have any tips to continue teaching kindness within the different structure of the world?
We might not be able to be face to face with recipients of our kindness, but it doesn’t dilute the impact. A truly kind act is not done for the giver to feel good about themselves, it’s truly about wanting to help another person. However, we do need to think more carefully about how we can engage in acts of kindness during a pandemic (keeping everyone safe should always be front of mind).
Helping our children intentionally choose to be kind and compassionate, also brings them a sense of control or autonomy over their world (rather than the current fear and unknown).
You don’t have to get fancy to get your child to do some beautiful drawings or make something crafty. You could find some kind of empowering quotes on the internet and make bookmarks, you could ask them to think of something they like about the person who will receive the care package and write that into a card. You could make up some compliments slips with instructions to pick a random slip of the person who needs a pick me up.
What has been your biggest struggle as a parent with teaching kindness?
I’m a busy person, and I’m also imperfect, so those teachable moments about kindness and compassion don’t always happen accidentally. I have to be really intentional about exposing my daughter to kindness. I try to model compassion in how I treat her and our family, or I use holidays or events occurring in the community to set up random acts of kindness … and just keep the conversation going about empathy and considering other people.
Read More: The Essential Parenting Books to Take You from Pregnancy Through Baby’s First Year