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One of the greatest gifts the 21st century has given us is the free-flowing information from the internet.
Information is at our fingertips--a few clicks and we can travel the world. At the same time, it can also bring negativity in the blink of an eye.
Omni and Bryce Larrosa, social media influencers awarded as Parenting Influencer 2022 by LionhearTV, recently shared an Instagram reel featuring their daughter and it was captione “Our kid got bashed because of her skin color.”
“Grabe ang itim yan,” “Uling or kid,” “Kape at gatas,” “Angel and devil,” “Yung anak mo nasunog,” said the comments in a Tiktok video shared in Omni and Bryce’s Tiktok account.
Zela, their daughter is only eight years old. She responded to the comments, “That’s funny,” “God made me like this,” “I like my skin color.”
“I’ll be honest. Nung nabasa ko [naisip ko], “Bakit sila ganun? 2023 na, may mga ganito pa din? Ang dami ng info about body positivity or kahit anti-racism, pero may mga ganito pa ding tao,” Mommy Omni shared when Smart Parenting asked them about their initial reactions.
Daddy Bryce also said that he was surprised that bullying about skin color is still a thing, “I didn’t expect na hanggang ngayon, meron pa din. Kasi ako din, nung bata ako, I also experienced being bullied because of my skin color.”
However, their next step lead them to an even more surprising finding, “Before we do anything, we checked the profiles nung mga nag-comment. Tiningnan namin yung mga accounts. Mga bata yung nag-comment. About 90% ng negative comments, bata, ranging from 8 to 10 years old,” Daddy Bryce said.
Instead of the usual retaliation, Omni and Bryce felt the opposite. They said, “Not to judge the parents, pero ang una naming naisip is, where are the parents of these kids?”
Omni added, “Dahil bata yung mga nag-comment, isa sa naramdaman namin is empathy. Kasi parang hindi naman kasalanan ng bata yun, not enritely their fault bakit ganun sila. Pwedeng result na yun ng influences around them. If that kid is acting that way, then kelangan ng batang yun ng guidance on how to act. Iba naman pag matanda yung nag-react. Sa bata kasi, baka may gumagawa din nun sa kanila, and they think it’s okay, kaya ginagawa din nila.”
Why did let Zela read the comments?
Why did Omni and Bryce allow Zela to read the negative comments about her skin color?
“Actually, merong konting hesitation nung una," Daddy Bryce said. "As a protective dad, pero naramdaman ko din na ready na siya si Zela. I kind of expected na positive ang response niya. Pero yung level na masyadong jolly yung reactions niya, hindi ko inexpect yun. Dun ako naiyak eh, ang pure ng take niya, kahit na sa mocking part. Pero dahil bata pa lang siya, alam niya na at one point na pwede siyang mabully about sa skin color, I think she’s ready.”
Mommy Omni added, “Meron din kasi kaming rule dito sa family na 'No keeping secrets'. So para samin, mas mabuting samin na niya marining, na may ganung nangyayari. Kesa naman mabasa nila mag-isa. Kasi they have access to the internet, pwedeng sabihin yun ng ibang tao sa kanila. Might as well, marinig nila samin and process it with them. I wasn’t really sure kung pano siya mag-react kung wala kami, baka mamaya, malungkot o ma-hurt siya.”
Omni and Bryce also emphasized that how they delivered and interpreted the situation to Zela made a lot of difference. They affirmed Zela, and at the same time, they explained the possible reasons why people leave negative comments. Omni explained to her daughter, “Actually, there are negative comments, but those comments came from kids who may not have the same guidance as you. Then, isa-isa, sinabi namin sa kanya. We told her, maybe they don’t know that it’s wrong. Nakita namin ang reaction niya, naintindihan naman niya.”
'Kung ano yung sinasabi natin sa mga anak natin, yun din ang papaniwalaan nila. Kaya it’s important to let them know that they are beautiful, they are loved, they are accepted.' —Bryce Larrosa
After seeing that Zela understood that, they let her read all the comments. They added, “Mas maigi kung sa amin na niya malaman. Kasi kung makita niya elsewhere, hindi namin alam paano siya mag-respond. Baka kung wala kami to process with her, baka madami ng lies ang papasok sa utak niya. Alam mo yun, negative thoughts about her.”
Omni and Bryce’s lesson to their kids
Zela’s reactions to the negative comments thrown her way was truly inspiring. She laughed it off and remained confident about her morena skin. We asked Omni and Bryce how Zela formed her confidence at a young age.
The Larrosas taught their kids about body positivity, confidence, and affirmation at the onset. “We cannot control what other people will do, but we can control they way we respond. Fortunately, yung mga anak namin, nasabihan namin about these things. Like si Zia (Omni and Bryce's older daughter), maputi siya pero pwede pa din siyang sabihan ng kung anu ano, or i-bash din.”
“Bata pa lang sila, nataniman na namin sila ng affirmation and magagandang words. Kasi words are powerful, they can bring life or death. Bata pa lang sila, alam na nila yan. We tell them affirming and positive words, you are wonderful, you are excellent, you are beautiful,” Omni continued.
At the same time, they also deal with their children’s mistakes, “Pag nagkakamali sila, hindi namin sinasabi na 'Ano ba yan, ang dali dali lang niyan,' It has an impact on a child’s growth kasi. Even the way we address their mistakes, we are careful with the words we use.” she said.
The couple also shared, “We believe na after the Word of God, dapat kaming parents ang source ng affirmation ng mga anak namin. Sa amin nanggagaling yung mga bagay na how they view themselves. Lalo na at the age of zero to 12, napakalaki ng influence ng information na makukuha nila, kaya gusto namin their foundation are built at that age. Sa lahat ng bagay, including how they see and view themselves.”
Bryce also added, “Kung ano yung sinasabi natin sa mga anak natin, yun din ang papaniwalaan nila. Kaya it’s important to let them know that they are beautiful, they are loved, they are accepted. We appreciate them, even their kindness.”
Omni shared how they converse with their children, “You cannot underestimate a child’s understanding. Kasi the way we talk to them, parang ka-edad lang namin. We don’t sugarcoat things for them. Alam nila yung kultura dito sa Pilipinas na pag maputi yung tao, mas maganda. Pero in other countries, they spend lots of money on tanning salons just to achieve your skin color.”
“Pag tinanong mo sila, wala silang plano na baguhina ng skin color nila. Alam nila na they don’t have to change anything to make them beautiful,” she shared.
Bryce also chimed in, “Hindi namin sila kino-cover sa reality kasi at some point, malalaman din nila. Kaya better na ma-prepare sila early on, kasi hindi naman namin masasala ang mga pwedeng mangyari sa kanila sa future. We just need to prepare them emotionally and mentally.”
'What matters most, moving forward is character. Kumabaga, hindi na talino lang. Values formation is what will bring them to greater heights. Dun ang encouragement namin sa other parents, na doon tumutok.' —Omni Larrosa
They believe that it’s important to build their children’s foundations on their beliefs at a young age so that when they get older, they can be confident that they can make sound decisions on their own.
Omni and Bryce allow their kids to have their own social media accounts but with guidance. In the same way, they also ask for their kids' consent whenever they share content with them on their social media page.
Message to children and parents
Bryce would like to affirm kids who have experienced being bullied because of their skin color, “Believe you are beautiful, you are wonderfully made. You are created for a purpose. In the future, you’ll realize why you are designed how you are. It will make sense in the future.”
But he also wanted to emphasize their message of encouragement to other parents, “I know ma-trabaho ang parenting. It will take extra effort, extra time, extra energy. Like in this case, parang we’re doing it for 8 years already, reminding her that she’s beautiful, speaking words of life to her, and now the result, it’s worth it.”
Bryce added, “Kaya kung nagtatrabaho tayo para kumita ng pera, nagsusumikap, wala namang masama dun. Pero baka masayang lang, lalo na kung hindi natin ma-mo-mold ang mga anak natin as young as they are. Mas i-prioritize natin ang pag-build ng character nila, mas i-prioritize natin ang pag-build ng morals nila, yung pagtuturo sa kanila ng tamang asal. I think yun talaga ang investment, kasi yun ang mga bagay na mag-propel sa kanila sa destiny nila.”
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Omni shared this powerful message to kids as well, “Sa mga kids, it doesn’t matter what others think, It matters what you think. If you know that you're beautiful and you are fearfully and wonderfully made, then there’s no other voice that can destroy that. Nothing can destroy your truth. No matter what people will say.”
She added, “You don’t need to go with the flow. You don’t need to do what others think. You don’t need to do what others are doing so you can feel good about yourself. It starts with you.”
For parents, she seconded Bryce, “Parenting takes time and effort. Pero it’s gonna be worth it. What matters most, moving forward is character. Yung mag-set apart sa future generation is character. Yung adversity quotient. The way we respond to things, the way we empathize, the way we solve our problems, the way we communicate to the heart. That’s what will set apart our kids in the future. Kumabaga, hindi na talino lang. Values formation is what will bring them to greater heights. Dun ang encouragement namin sa other parents, na doon tumutok. Na yun talaga ang mahalaga. Values formation, character development.”