It seems that teaching children about diversity has become more important than ever. Although I am under the impression that many adults could use some lessons in diversity, I am content to focus on those things that I can actually change. While you are teaching diversity, it is also an excellent idea to teach them about gender.
What our kids may be learning from the new climate emerging from the current administration is frightening. I am sure that for most of us, one of the biggest concerns we have is that our new leader is creating a divisive, fearful image of whole groups of people that he views as a threat.
The fact that we live in a culturally diverse country is a gift. Our children are fortunate to go to schools with kids that are different from them. Family structures now consist of single parents, same-sex parents, and blended families. Cultural differences abound as well as a multitude of ethnicities. Children speak other languages and children with disabilities are joining their peers in regular classrooms.
Teaching children to accept and respect differences starts at home. As children get older, there are going to be more influences from teachers, coaches, and peers that help shape their views on diversity. See how team sports can teach your child to get along with other cultures and personalities.
Fortunately, children come with open minds, and that makes for a great opportunity to teach them about respecting and embracing the beautiful differences in all people. Click here for ways to help your grade-schooler learn to appreciate differences in people.
Recognize Your Own Diversity Biases
Children are always watching and listening to what we do. Make sure that you are not just talking the talk, but also walking the walk before you start talking to your kids about why they should be accepting of diversity.
For example, it you are telling your children not to judge people by their color, and avoiding areas that may limit their interactions with blacks, then what type of message are you sending to your children?
Be careful about saying things based on stereotypes. If you refer to the Hispanics that work in your office as lazy, then it will be harder to teach your children not to make decisions based on stereotypes. It is not their ethnicity that makes them lazy. They are probably just lazy.
Parenting with the philosophy of “Do as I say, but not as I do” rarely works. It is like the parent lecturing their child on the ills of cigarette smoking as they take a drag off of their cigarette.
We Like Our Comfort Zones-But Get Out!
We are creatures of habit. We typically go to the same grocery stores, the same movie theaters, and the same restaurants because we feel comfortable there. We know what to expect. Unfortunately, that tends to segregate ourselves into what turns out to be a mostly homogenous community.
Teaching children about diversity needs to go beyond the theme of the month at school or watching a PBS documentary on race during Black History Month.
It is OK to visit cultural centers and events and to eat ethnic foods, but we must make a deliberate effort to seek out cultural activities, outside of our communities, and explore the value and strength of diversity. Check out these 7 Books that teach kids about diversity.
It is OK To Be Different
Teaching children about diversity can start by listening to the questions that your child is asking about the differences they see in other people. When children get older, they may begin to ask questions by using stereotypical, hurtful language. Teach them that stereotypes can be divisive and they do not accurately represent individuals because they typically don’t tell the whole story.
It is silly to tell your children not to notice differences. It is not only unrealistic, but it completely misses the point of teaching children about diversity. Diversity is recognizing differences in one another; not being blind to those differences.
Children will notice differences. They will see kids that wear a head scarf to school, notice that children have different sounding names and that some children speak different languages. Children have a natural curiosity about things that are different.
As parents, it is our job to help them appreciate those differences and not pretend that they do not exist. One of the greatest joys of living in a free society is that there are differences. Everyone is unique. We need to explain to our children those things that seem different or strange to them, or we will never be successful in teaching them to understand and appreciate those differences.