It’s all too common for children and adults alike to feel that being different is bad or ugly, especially when so many messages come from popular media (toys and beauty products also help define our norms). Unfortunately, many Asian American children are misunderstood and feel different or invisible, creating self-doubt and low self-esteem. When Alan says that the other child was wrong, you might explain that the other child may have been using hurtful words because he does not understand differences yet.
Watch this video yourself to decide whether to share it with children. In it, a girl named Analyn, whose family is from the Philippines, is having big feelings because she’d been teased about her eyes. Her new friends Wes and Alan are there to support her. Led by Alan, they sing a song about how their eyes are beautiful, and how they tell the story of their family. For children who have been adopted and are a different race from the family have been adopted into, you can take this opportunity to expand the concept of family history and how their ancestry is now part of the new family history. (The way we look “tells the story of your family, it tells where you came from and how we came to be,”—but it’s not the only important story!)
Together with children, watch the video and explore how to build self-worth by fostering understanding and pride in a child’s ethnic identity, as well as by connecting with one’s family history (or histories). This video can also help all children engage around building empathy and understanding differences.
Before viewing this video, ask about instances in their lives that they felt different, or when they were made to feel different. Explore how those experiences made them feel.
During the video, pause when children have questions, or to help them identify Analyn’s feelings. When Alan says that the other child was wrong, you might explain that the other child may hav been using hurtful words because he did not understand differences yet.
After watching, talk about how we’re all different and how we can take pride in those differences. Ask questions to explore and expand upon children’s family ethnic identity. Together, you might sing the song any time, especially the chorus:
Your eyes tell the story of your family.
They show where you come from, and how you came to be.
The color, the shape, and the size.
Should always make you proud of your eyes.
You might also look at each other’s eyes and describe the color, shape, and size. How would children describe their own eyes? Tell them that their eyes are beautiful and important—they let them see the world and show how they are feeling.
Remind children that singing songs is a great way to help yourself when you have big feelings. You can do it when you’re by yourself, or when you’re together with others. Talk about other ways to handle big feelings, such as talking to trusted adults (like Analyn did), drawing, dancing, having quiet time…or getting a big hug!