By: Beth Ann Mayer
Every March, we celebrate Women’s History Month. For 31 days, we take time to highlight the contributions women have made and continue to make to our society. Schools may incorporate Women’s History Month into their curriculums, but experts believe it’s important to talk about it at home, too.
“It focuses on the social-emotional development of being a good person, kind and strong. All of those components have led the women throughout history to be historical,” says Joy Turner, vice president of education at Kiddie Academy, a franchise system of early learning centers with more than 250 academies in 30 states and the District of Columbia.
Experts agree that it’s essential to celebrate Women’s History Month with kids of all genders. “It’s important for boys and young men to understand that women are just as powerful as men, and we have the ability to do anything, just like they can,” says Justine Green, Ed.D, the principal of Tamim Academy in Boca Raton, Florida.
You may be unsure how to speak with your child about Women’s History Month. Consider this your guide to get the conversation going and celebrate the month as a family.
Here are some questions to discuss with your child:
What Is Women’s History Month?
Dr. Green suggests explaining Women’s History Month in personal terms, such as teaching your child about women in their own family, like a grandmother. “That allows them to make connections with women’s history,” she says.
Once you’ve introduced that concept, Dr. Green suggests expanding on it by saying, “Women’s history means all the people who came before us.” It’s about celebrating their contributions to society and commemorating historical milestones.
As children enter elementary school, you may be able to point to a woman in the news, such as Vice President Kamala Harris, or in a book, including Women Who Changed History (History Makers) and Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World.
How Did Women’s History Month Start?
Women’s History Month is actually a relatively new celebration. It began in the Sonoma, California school district in 1978 as a weeklong celebration of women’s contributions to society. Students participated in a “Real Woman” essay contest, several schools held presentations, and there was even a parade.
It caught on. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter declared the week of March 8 Women’s History Week, and Congress passed a resolution the following year that established a national commemoration.
The National Women’s History Project successfully petitioned the U.S. government to turn Women’s History Week into a monthlong celebration in 1987.
Why Else Do We Celebrate Women’s History Month?
Women didn’t always have the right to do what they can do today, such as work, vote, have a bank account, and own a home. It also took nearly two-and-a-half centuries for a woman to become vice president of the United States.
“You can tell your children, ‘We celebrate things so we don’t forget them,'” suggests Regine Muradian, Psy.D., a California-based clinical psychologist and author. “‘We celebrate so we honor how hard women fought to get to where they are today.'”
Dr. Muradian suggests bringing up other holidays, like St. Patrick’s Day, where your family may have traditions that have been passed down for generations.
“Then they will associate Women’s History Month with importance, so they can keep it going,” she says.
Is There a Men’s History Month?
This question may come across as insensitive, but remember that children may be genuinely curious. Take a step back and answer honestly and authentically.
Dr. Green suggests saying, “For a lot of our history, men ran the world. They were in charge of decisions, owned the land, and had the money. Women did not have these choices. We have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to learning about the women in our past. We know a lot about the men. Women deserve to be celebrated.”
How to Celebrate Women’s History Month at Home
Celebrating Women’s History Month at home reinforces lessons learned in school and also emphasizes the importance of honoring and respecting women, all three experts shared.
Play a game
Dr. Green suggests turning family game night into a celebration of women’s history. Together, research facts about famous women, such as poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou and Helen Keller, an educator, advocate for the blind and deaf, and co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Then write them down on scraps of paper and play “Guess Who?”
“Books start conversations,” says Turner. Some of the books Kiddie Academy is recommending for Women’s History Month include Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea (Meena Harris), Ambitious Girl (Meena Harris), I Am Enough (Grace Byers), She Persisted (Chelsea Clinton), and Ada Twist, Scientist (Andrea Beaty). Dr. Green recommends I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, a book about the real-life experiences of Jennings, who is a transgender woman and LGBTQ activist.
Write book reports
Dr. Green says older children can pick out a book or poem written by a female author, such as Emily Dickinson, and write a book report. In the report, you can also ask the child to write a bit about the author. “Read the book and look into her story, who she was and what she did,” suggests Dr. Green, adding that this helps give children female role models.
Women’s History Month isn’t just a celebration of famous women, but it’s also a celebration of the women in our lives. Turner suggests having children write thank you notes to women who have helped them. “It teaches recognition of efforts,” she says.
It’s important to celebrate women of all races and ethnicities and talk about members of the LGBTQ community. “Women’s History Month is a time where all women, regardless of their background, should feel validated, commemorated, and appreciated,” says Dr. Muradian. “This is how we move forward.”
Parents can do this by picking out books with diverse characters. Stories about Rosa Parks’ life can also help spark conversations about the intersection of race and gender. Families can also talk about women like Rachel Levine, who is poised to become the first openly transgender person to be confirmed by the Senate.