WHM: Josephine Baker

In honor of Women’s History Month, the Carolina Women’s Center is featuring blog posts by UNC student Lydia McInnes. Lydia’s writing celebrates some notable women throughout history. In remembering their actions, we honor their memory and their contributions to all women.

Josephine Baker

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Born: St. Louis, Missouri on June 3, 1906 (birth name: Freda Josephine McDonald)

Died: Paris, France on April 12, 1975

Occupation: Singer, Dancer, Civil Rights Activist

Notable Quote: “Surely the day will come when color means nothing more than the skin tone, when religion is seen uniquely as a way to speak one’s soul, when birth places have the weight of a throw of the dice and all men are born free, when understanding breeds love and brotherhood.”

Why you should know about her:

Josephine Baker spent her early life in poverty, working as a nanny and caretaker for wealthy white families in St. Louis, before going on to become one of Europe’s most popular and highest paid performers. She started dancing at 13 and began touring the US in 1919 before moving to France to pursue her career away from the racist jeers and disdain of white Americans.

She catapulted herself to fame in 1926 by dancing in a skirt made out of 16 bananas – and little else – before moving on to sing and dance in French stage performances and films. Baker, like many other black performers of the age, was welcomed in Paris due to her “exotic” nature and appearance – she was dubbed the “Black Venus” and the “Black Pearl” by audiences – leaving her to walk the fine line between representation and exploitation.

This fantasized (and fetishized) version of blackness that French audiences wanted may have given her fame, but it wasn’t the only way she left her mark France. Baker also worked for the Red Cross and the French Resistance during the WWII Nazi occupation of France, and she was a sub-lieutenant in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. After the war, she was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honor, two of France’s highest military honors for her service during the war.

She returned to the US during the 1950s and ‘60s to participate in the boycotts, protests, and marches of the Civil Rights movement. She marched on Washington alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., on the day of his “I Have a Dream” speech and helped the cause so much that the NAACP named May 20th Josephine Baker day in her honor. She performed at a packed Carnegie Hall crowd in New York in 1973 after decades of racist rejection and then returned to her home in the French countryside with her 12 adopted children from countries around the world.

She died at age 68 in 1975, just after the 50th anniversary of her Paris debut. Over 20,000 Parisians lined the streets to view her funeral procession. She was honored with a 21-gun salute by the French government, making her the first American woman in history to be buried in France with military honors. More than just a pretty face and a good voice, Josephine Baker was a true Freedom Fighter, a champion of civil rights, and a woman whose name should not be forgotten.

Call for Nominations: 2020 University Awards for the Advancement of Women

On behalf of the Offices of the Chancellor and the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, the Carolina Women’s Center is pleased to announce the call for nominations for the 2020 University Awards for the Advancement of Women. These awards recognize contributions to the advancement of women at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill by people of all genders.

This year, four individuals– one faculty member, one staff member, one undergraduate, and one graduate/professional student or postdoctoral scholar–will be selected to receive these awards. The faculty and staff recipients each receive $5000. Each undergraduate student award and graduate/professional student/postdoctoral scholar award is $2500. Awardees will be honored in a ceremony on Monday, April 6, 2020. 

Please submit nominations at this link for individuals who have contributed in one or more of the following ways:

  • Helped to improve or establish campus policies and practices that positively impact women;
  • Promoted and advanced the recruitment, retention, and upward mobility of women at UNC Chapel Hill;
  • Participated in, assisted with, or established professional development opportunities for women; and/or
  • Participated in, assisted with, or established professional development opportunities for women.

Please describe how the nominee meets one or more of the award’s specific criteria (in 300 words or less per section), using clearly defined examples to support nomination.

The deadline for nominations is Friday, March 20, 2020 at 11:59pm.

All nominations should be submitted via Qualtrics at this link. If there are any questions, please contact Dr. Gloria Thomas at

WHM: Grace Hopper

For Women’s History Month, we’ll be sharing weekly blog posts from Lily Lou, one of our student interns. She will be highlighting a notable and inspiring woman in each post.

Grace Hopper

220px-Grace_HopperBorn: December 9, 1906, in New York City, New York

Occupation(s): Mathematician, Computer Scientist, United States Navy Rear Admiral

Awesome Quote: “Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’ I try to fight that. That’s why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise.”

Why should you know about her? Grace Hopper was one of the first computer programmers. In 1934 she became the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale University, and she also served in the US Navy during World War II as a lieutenant, where she worked on the Bureau of Ships Computation Project at Harvard University building new computer technologies for the Navy. As a programmer, she developed the first compiler for a computer programming language, which is the basis of all modern day computer programming languages. She was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 1991. In 2016 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama. Though she died in 1992, there is an annual computer science conference for women in her honor, the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.

Brief Biography: Grace Hopper was born in New York City in 1906. She graduated with honors from Vassar College in 1928 with a degree in mathematics and physics and earned her master’s degree and Ph.D. in math at Yale University in 1930 and 1934, respectively. She taught math at Vassar from 1931 to 1943.

After teaching math, she joined the navy, where her grandfather served. Initially, she was rejected because her weight was too low and she was too old, but she eventually became a lieutenant and worked on programming the Mark I computer during World War II, which was one of the first computers used by the Navy. After the war ended, she continued working for the Navy, programming the Mark II and III computers.

In 1949, she began working for Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation, which was later bought by Remington Rand, a private computer company where she oversaw programming for the UNIVAC computer, which was the first commercial computer made in the United States. In 1952, she helped create the first compiler for computer languages, which translated the computer’s binary instructions to a computer coding language.

When she was 60, she returned to the Navy to work on computer languages. She continued working for the Navy until she was 79, when she was a rear admiral and the oldest serving officer in the Navy. Immediately after her retirement from the Navy, she continued computing, working for the Digital Equipment Corporation. She became the first woman to receive the National Medal of Technology in 1991. She continued working until she died in Arlington, Virginia, on January 1, 1992, at age 85.

There is currently a conference named in honor of Hopper that encourages women to pursue computer science and engineering. It is the largest conference for women in STEM, bringing together over 18,000 attendees. In February, Yale renamed Calhoun College to Grace Murray Hopper.

WHM: Malala Yousafzai

For Women’s History Month, we’ll be sharing weekly blog posts from Lily Lou, one of our student interns. She will be highlighting a notable and inspiring woman in each post.

Malala Yousafzai


Born: July 12, 1997, in Mingora, Pakistan

Occupation(s): Activist, Student, Writer

Awesome Quote: “The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were born.”
Why should you know about her? Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for fighting for the right for children, specifically girls, to get an education. She is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize. As a 9 year old, she blogged for the BBC under a pseudonym about her experience living in the Taliban-controlled Swat district of northwestern Pakistan. The Taliban opposes education for girls and women, but Malala stood up for her rights and continued going to school despite death threats. She survived an assassination attempt in 2012, and today she still continues to fight for the right to education.

Brief Biography: Malala was born in Pakistan with two younger brothers. Her father, who owned the school that she attended, was active in supporting education rights for women. When Malala was 10, the Taliban took over the Swat Valley and banned girls from going to school. She resisted by giving a speech on television in 2008 titled “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?” In 2009, she also began blogging for the BBC Urdu to show the world how the Taliban was influencing life in the Swat Valley. She wrote about women’s education, but because blogging about the Taliban was so dangerous, she had to use an alias. In 2011, she was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize and won Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize.

Because of her activism, she received death threats from the Taliban. When she was 15, a masked gunman boarded her school bus and shot her in the head. She was rushed to the hospital in critical condition and was later transported to a hospital in Birmingham, England, where she currently lives and attends school. Nearly six months later, she recovered from her injuries and spoke at the United Nations for universal access to education and published an autobiography, “I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.”

In 2013, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and won the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. She continues to speak out on the importance of educating girls. In 2014, she won the Nobel Peace Prize with Kailash Satyarthi, an activist against child labor.

She also co-founded the Malala Fund with her father to advocate for girls’ education. As part of the Fund, she traveled to Nigeria to raise awareness about girls that Boko Haram, a terrorist group, kidnapped to prevent going to school.

On her 18th birthday, she opened a school for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon as part of the Malala Fund. She continues to fight for girls’ right to education today.

WHM: Angela Davis

For Women’s History Month, we’ll be sharing weekly blog posts from Lily Lou, one of our student interns. She will be highlighting a notable and inspiring woman in each post.


Angela Davis


Born: January 26, 1944, in Birmingham, Alabama

Occupation(s): Activist, Educator, Scholar, and Writer

Awesome Quote: “You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.”

Why should you know about her? Angela Davis is best known for being an activist who focuses on prison abolition, gender equity, and civil rights. Her first book, Women, Race, and Class, was one of the first to focus on intersectional feminism and she is especially known for her activism in the 1970s. She ran for US vice president on the Communist Party ticket in 1980 and 1984, encouraging more African Americans to join the Party. Her activism started as a graduate student: she was politically active in groups including the Black Panthers and the Che-Lumumba Club, an all-black branch of the Communist Party. She also co-founded Critical Resistance, an organization working to abolish the prison-industrial complex, especially addressing the disproportionately high number of minorities in prisons. In 1969, she taught at the University of California, Los Angeles despite facing controversy from the University’s administration because of her involvement in the Communist Party. She later taught courses on the history of consciousness and chaired the feminist studies department at the University of California, Santa Cruz before retiring in 2008. She has written five books including Angela Davis: An Autobiography, Women, Race, and Class and Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday.

Brief Biography: Angela Davis grew up in Birmingham, Alabama with two brothers and a sister. Her mother was a part of the NAACP and worked as an elementary school teacher. Her father owned a service station. Davis attended a segregated black elementary school and middle school. In high school, Davis set up interracial study groups, which were frequently broken up by police. As a high school junior, Davis moved to New York as part of a program that placed black students from segregated schools in the South in progressive, schools in the North.

In 1961, she went to Brandeis University, where she graduated with honors (magna cum laude) and earned a B.A. in French literature. In 1963, she was studying abroad in France, when she found out about the Ku Klux Klan bombing a Birmingham church, killing four girls she knew. This attack inspired her to return to the U.S. and become more politically active in fighting for civil rights. After graduating, Davis joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and later the Black Panther Party.

After studying philosophy for two years at the University of Frankfurt in Germany, she went to University of California at San Diego in 1968 to pursue a master’s degree. She later earned her Ph.D. from Humboldt University in Berlin.

From 1969 to 1970, Davis was an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of California at Los Angeles, but because she was part of the Communist Party, many administrators opposed her teaching.

In the 1970s she began pushing for changes in the prison system. Davis was arrested in 1970 after a prison abolitionist, Jonathan Jackson, tried to free prisoners on trial using guns registered in her name. In a court room, four people, including one judge, were killed during the incident, but Davis was acquitted on all charges. The incident, however, led to more opposition against her teaching in California colleges. However, in 1977, Davis became a lecturer in women’s and ethnic studies at San Francisco State University in 1977.

She also ran as vice president for the Communist Party in the U.S. elections of 1980 and 1984. As the candidate, she wanted to make the Communist Party more accessible to the African American community. In 1984, she began teaching the History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz and Women’s and Gender Studies at Syracuse University, eventually becoming the chair of the feminist studies department. She retired in 2008, but continues to advise students and occasionally teaches classes at UC Santa Cruz.

Call for Nominations: University Awards for the Advancement of Women

Call for Nominations
2017 University Awards for the Advancement of Women

On behalf of the Offices of the Chancellor and the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, the Carolina Women’s Center is pleased to announce the call for nominations for the 2017 University Awards for the Advancement of Women.  This award recognizes contributions by people of all genders to the advancement of women at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Each year, four individuals–one faculty member, one staff member, and two students–are selected to receive the award. The faculty and staff recipients each receive $5000. In 2016, the award for a student split into two awards: one for an undergraduate student, and one for a graduate or professional student or postdoctoral scholar. Each student recipient receives $2500. Awardees are honored in a ceremony during the Carolina Women’s Center’s annual Gender Week Celebration in the spring.

Please submit nominations for individuals who have contributed in one or more of the following ways:

•    Elevated the status of women on campus in sustainable ways;
•    Helped to improve campus policies affecting women;
•    Promoted and advanced the recruitment, retention, and upward mobility of women;
•    Participated in and assisted in the establishment of professional development opportunities for women; and/or
•    Participated in and assisted in the establishment of academic mentoring for women.

In no more than 750 words, please address directly how the nominee meets one or more of the award’s criteria, using specific examples to support the nomination. Nominations may also include letters of support from other individuals or groups

**There are a number of other awards for which nominees might also be eligible and/or better candidates. Please see the list of awards and links on the Carolina Women’s Center’s Awards Page.

**To submit a nomination, please use the online form at:

A maximum of two additional supporting letters (suggested limit 250 words) are permitted but not required. These letters may be submitted via fax (919-843-5619), campus mail (Carolina Women’s Center, CB# 3302), or emailed pdf ( Please be sure to indicate in the cover sheet or subject line whose nomination the letter supports.

All faculty and staff nominees must be permanent, current employees.   No self-nominations or posthumous nominations will be accepted.  Carolina Women’s Center administrators and staff are not eligible for nomination.

The deadline for nominations is Monday, January 30, at 5:00 p.m. Please note that this is a shorter nomination window than usual.

Previous award winners are

(2016) Sheila Kannappan, Jackie Overton, Mary Shen, Leslie Gabriela Morales
(2015) Carmen Samuel-Hodge, Terri Phoenix, Maegan Clawges
(2014) Karen Booth, Donna Bickford, Audrey Rose Verde
(2013) Jenny Ting, Kelli Raker, Camille McGirt
(2012) Sherryl Kleinman, Bev Pearson, Allison Grady
(2011) Lillie Searles, Bob Pleasants, Caroline Fish
(2010) Laurie McNeil, Melinda Manning, Parastoo Hashemi
(2009) Etta Pisano, Aimee Krans, Annie Clark
(2008) Kay Lund, Cookie Newsom, Emily Joy Rothchild
(2007) Barbara Harris, Annette Madden, Emily Dunn,
(2006) Jan Boxill, Terri Houston, Matt Ezzell

Put on Your Air Mask First

As the semester is coming to an end and finals are around the corner, it’s important to focus on self-care as a parent and a student.  The end of the semester is when stress is at an all-time high, and self-care tends to take a backseat.  During stressful times, we ignore our needs and limits, but it is during these times that we need to practice self-care the most.  Self-care is the intentional action you take caring for your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being.  Self-care can be challenging: it’s a last priority and usually comes after meeting everyone else’s needs.  The following exercise will help you find strategies for taking care of yourself and identifying stressors that drain your energy for parenting and school.

On a piece of paper, brainstorm and write down the characteristics of each of the following:

  • Good parent
  • Good student
  • Healthy person (an individual who is in a state of good physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being)

In your lists of characteristics, do you see any traits listed under multiple identities?  Do your lists overlap?  Looking at your lists, can anyone be all of these things, all of the time?

The short answer is no.  Trying to achieve all the characteristics of these multiple identities (which may or may not conflict with each other) adds to the stress that you are experiencing.  You may end up not getting enough sleep, skipping meals, and ignoring your needs as you try to be a good student and a good parent while being a healthy person.  One of the ways to practice self-care is to figure out how you cope with stress.

The majority of people can recognize major stressors (changing jobs, moving, and losing a loved one), but sometimes you may ignore daily stressors when you are focused on other things such as paper deadlines, tests, and children’s extracurricular activities.  To examine your sources of stress (i.e., habits, attitudes, events, kids), here are a couple of questions you can ask yourself:

  • How do you feel physically and emotionally when you are stressed?
  • How do you respond to it?
  • Do you explain stress as temporary? (“I have a lot of things going on right now,” even though you may not remember the number of hours you slept or the last time you ate)
  • Do you define stress as an integral part of your life? (“My life is always chaotic”) or an attribute of your personality? (“I’m always nervous”)

Now, make another list of characteristics.

  • Good enough parent
  • Good enough student

How do these differ from your original lists? Are they completely different, or do they have commonalities?

The purpose of this exercise is to understand that being good enough is alright: you are doing your best given the circumstances.  For instance, good enough can be equivalent to 85%.  It may not be the 100% you wanted, but you did well enough to pass.  Both student and parent roles are full-time and demanding.  These roles won’t always be compatible, and they can cause you to engage in unhealthy coping skills.  Unhealthy coping skills may temporarily reduce stress, but they can cause more damage in the long run. Examples include

  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Eating a lot of junk food
  • Zoning out in front of the television or laptop
  • Withdrawing from family and friends.

To combat unhealthy coping skills, write down one or more commitments you would like to make to practice self-care.  These commitments can start off as activities, behavioral changes, and/or cognitive changes that you would like to practice during finals.  Some examples of practicing self-care include:

  • Exercise for 30 minutes: You can burn away anger, tension, and frustration. It can reduce and prevent the effects of stress.
  • Put on some music and dance around.
  • Take an exercise class (Ram’s Head/SRC have great hour long group exercise classes such as aerobics and Zumba).
  • Have a study break with a friend or classmate.
  • Ask someone to check in with you regularly to boost your confidence as you are studying for finals.
  • Say “no”: know your limits and stick to them. It is important to distinguish the “shoulds” and “musts” in your life. (For instance, you may feel like your infant should be in the upper percentile, but your infant must be healthy.) Designate a “no” person if necessary.
  • Tell yourself that you are good enough when balancing parental and student responsibilities.

Self-care is individualized and personal, but we all need it.  It is important for us to keep self-care in mind, especially as the end of the semester is a time for possible burnout and hospitalization.  Self-care allows you to be the best version of yourself to be effective as a parent and a student.  Aaron Karmin, a licensed clinician, describes self-care with a great metaphor:

“A selfless person put others’ masks on, while they choke.  A selfish person puts their mask on and leaves everyone else to choke.  A person practicing self-preservation puts their mask on first and help those around them.”

Families in Unhealthy and Abusive Relationships

**Warning: This post discusses interpersonal violence (domestic, relationship, or family violence). The clip illustrating accusations is graphic. Please take care of yourself as you read this post. This link goes directly to the resources on- and off- campus.**

Last week, I discussed challenges and disagreements that are part of healthy relationships.  However, some responses to the challenges of parenting can go beyond the realm of healthy and unhealthy into the realm of abuse.  Relationships exist on a continuum from healthy to abusive with unhealthy relationships in the middle.

In an unhealthy relationship, one partner attempts to control the other person. For instance, one person tries to make most of the decisions about what y’all will do and where y’all will go.  Or, your partner may pressure you about sex and refuse to see how their actions are hurting you.  These relationships can include breaks in communication, pressure, dishonesty, and struggle for control.  Additionally, your partner might make you feel bad about yourself or like you should only spend time with them.  There are many other characteristics of an unhealthy relationship, including

  • Putting your partner’s needs first while neglecting your own most of the time
  • Feeling pressure to change yourself into the person your partner wants
  • Not enjoying and/or belittle your respective successes
  • Attempting to control and manipulate each other
  • Unequal control of resources

Some relationships may exhibit one or two unhealthy characteristics, but that does not necessarily mean that the relationship is abusive.  The best way to use this information is to recognize how these characteristics affect you and impact your relationship.  Partners can improve unhealthy aspects of their relationship to move towards a healthy one. Last week’s post gives some tips on how to redirect your relationship to a healthy one.

Abusive relationships are based on unequal power and control. Interpersonal violence (IPV) is when an individual exerts power and control over another individual or individuals with whom they are in a close relationship through physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, financial, and psychological actions or threats.  That person makes all of the decisions about topics such as sexual activity, friend groups, and boundaries.  If you are in an abusive relationship, you may spend all of your time with your partner and feel like you cannot talk to other people, especially about how you feel in your relationship.  Abusive relationships can be characterized by accusations, isolation, gas lighting, and manipulation of one person by the other.  There are other ways in which abuse can exhibit itself.

Families are affected by abusive relationships, including children who witness and/or experience the abuse and violence.  Being a parent in an abusive relationship makes a difficult situation that much harder.  You may not only worry about your own safety, but you also worry for the safety and well-being of your children.  Often times, the abuser may use your children against you— not letting you see your children, abusing (or threatening to abuse) your child, and/or using your child to check up on you, for example.  The best thing to do in this difficult situation is to talk to your children and let them know that the abuser’s behavior is wrong.  Children can have long-lasting mental health symptoms such as depression and anxiety, or they may grow up thinking IPV is normal and may attempt to mimic the behavior of the abusive relationship.

It is important to remember that abuse is never your fault.  The abuse falls on the abuser, and they are responsible for their behavior.  It is up to them to change their abusive behavior.  Even though you may love and want to help fix the behavior or fix the person, you don’t deserve to be abused or to carry the psychological burden of fixing someone.

Attempting to leave the abuser is hard, especially with children involved.  If you are ready to leave or not, here are some steps that you can take to ensure safety for you and your children:

  • Prepare a safety plan with your children: Arrange a safe place for your children (such as hiding in a closet or going to a neighbor’s house), and plan a code word so they know when to leave and where to get help.
  • Have a conversation with your children to let them know that it’s not their fault
  • Pack an emergency bag, including things like important documentation, formula, diapers, medicine. Keep the bag hidden or with someone you trust.

If you or someone you know is experiencing IPV, there are a lots of options for help. UNC has on- and off-campus resources for you.

  • Gender Violence Service Coordinator (GVSC): The coordinator is a confidential resource to all students who are experiencing or have experienced IPV either before or during their time at UNC. The GVSC has drop in hours, in addition to meeting by appointment. You can find more information here.
  • Safe at UNC: This is the university’s website dedicated to information and resources related to IPV, including interim protective measures like safe housing.
  • UNC LGBTQ Center: This organization provides great information and resources to the LGBTQ-identified students on campus. The GVSC has drop-in hours on Thursdays 3 – 5 pm in the center. Additionally, they offer online relationship modules that range from differentiating between healthy and unhealthy relationships and IPV.
  • Orange County Rape Crisis Center (OCRCC): They have a free and confidential hotline and resources for survivors of sexual violence. You can call them at 1-866-WE-LISTEN or visit them at
  • Compass Center for Women and Families: This organization offers a confidential hotline for survivors of domestic violence and families. The number is 919-929-7122.  They can also provide resources and information:
    • Crisis counseling (in office and in hotline)
    • Safety planning
    • Support and advocacy in civil and criminal domestic violence court
    • Support groups with free childcare
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline is another confidential and free hotline. The number is 1-800-799-7233

Healthy Relationships: Partners and Children

Although most Americans think of families as being comprised of 2 parents and children, there are many possible family structures. For this post, I am defining caregivers as the primary co-parents, caregivers, relatives, and/or friends who participate in childrearing.  For some families, children bring positive changes to the relationship such as a sense of gratification and joy, and they may feel a deeper connection to one another. However, parenting also brings challenges—such as exhaustion, spending less time together, and disagreements about how to raise children and parental styles.  Combined with the exhaustion of not getting enough sleep, parents may not have the energy to discuss and resolve problems when they arise.

In healthy relationships, partners can openly communicate, respect and support each other, and express their thoughts and feelings to one another, especially when voicing concerns. Another aspect of healthy relationships is establishing healthy boundaries. As a parent, you can think of a boundary as the line you draw to set limits for yourself and your children.  Sometimes, parents push past their limits to fix things for their children. For instance, your young child throws a tantrum because they are not getting what they want.  You give them what they want because you want them to stop throwing a tantrum, especially if your are in public. Setting boundaries means knowing what you value, believe, and where you stand as an individual and as a parent. This allows you to stick to your values without pushing past your limits as a caregiver and individual.  For instance, if you value respect, and your child is interrupting a conversation, let them know and hold them accountable.  You could ask your child to apologize, say “excuse me,” and then instruct them to wait for an invitation to the conversation.

To promote healthy relationships within the family, parents and other caregivers should talk to their children about what healthy relationships are.  The best place to start is with open communication. By openly communicating, caregivers and children create and sustain healthy relationships within the family structure.  The following tips for healthy relationship-building among family members operate underneath the umbrella of open communication and intertwine with each other:

  • Listen to each other: Active listening is a good communication skill to help understand other people’s point of view. For instance, you can stop what you are doing when a family member expresses themselves.  You can pay attention to their words and body language.
  • Express feelings: “I” statements are one way to express yourself without blaming yourself or others. Unless someone in your family is a mind reader, no one will really know how you feel if you don’t express yourself! Additionally, young children are learning how to express their feelings, so parents need to model healthy ways of expressing themselves and encouraging their children to do the same.  If your child does not want to get in their car seat, and they start screaming, you can say to them, “I understand that you don’t like the car seat, but I need to keep you safe.”  Infants and toddlers may not understand what you are saying, but they can hear your tone, and it sets the stage for expressing themselves in the future.
  • Accept changes: Instead of looking at life events on a timeline and feeling like everything is off-track, look at life events as a new normal for you and your family members. My previous blog post talked about parents wanting their children to be perfect. Children reach different milestones at different times so if it takes your child a little longer to reach a developmental milestone, it is completely normal.  For instance, if your toddler is not reading by age 2, understand that this does not mean your child will be a failure for the rest of their life.
  • Manage conflict: Disagreements are normal, and talking through them will help with open communication. Instead of insulting each other, whenever you and a family member are having a disagreement, take some time to yourself, and revisit the issue once everyone is calm and has had time to process. In the midst of a disagreement, you can ask yourself, “why am I upset?” and “how can I express myself to my partner?”
  • Take control of your relationships: Have an honest discussion about what’s going on in your life. For example, you can start a conversation about your new role as a parent, how you feel about that, and how you engage in these roles.

For more about healthy relationships, check out the LGBTQ Center‘s five part online module (link at the bottom).