The world is one massive melting pot, and modern technology allows people to connect like never before. As your kids grow, they are likely to notice differences in the environment and the community. Many kids will begin to ask questions and point out variations. This can be embarrassing for parents, especially if their youngster is speaking loudly or pointing in public. The answer to this situation lies in preparation and communication, starting at an early age.
Here are six ways to teach your children about diversity.
1. Address Their Observations
Did you know 3-month-old babies can perceptually distinguish faces by race? Their observation skills continue to develop as they grow. At 6-months a child can perceive these differences enough to begin categorizing faces by race, and by age eight, most children can sort others into racial groups. It makes sense that these differences would spark a level of reflection and contemplation. Therefore, it’s crucial to address these thoughts immediately.
Your child is not blind to diversity, but that is not the same as understanding its implications. Instead of attempting to quiet their questions, address them head-on in an honest and non-biased manner.
For instance, the next time your child asks why someone is fat or skinny, state that people come in all shapes and sizes, which makes the world an exciting place. As they age, you can become more scientific with your responses to provide an accurate response to their questions. Keep in mind that if you do not answer, someone else will, and their response may have profound implications on your child’s beliefs.
2. Discuss Various Types of Diversity
Diversity simply means that people are unique and have differences, but those contrasts do not make them better or worse than their peers. You should discuss all different types of diversity, such as race, religion, gender, physical abilities, socioeconomic status, political beliefs and other ideologies. As you converse, empathize that these differences make people special and beautiful in their own way.
Depending on your environment, your child may be a minority, and it’s crucial they recognize their value in the world. Additionally, situations change, and they may find themselves identifying differently than they did at birth. What matters on the inside is more important than any physical feature. Teaching your kids this lesson will help them to be kind to others and themselves.
3. Introduce Educational Books and Shows
Strengthen your lessons on diversity by introducing educational books and shows. As you read and watch, your child will begin to understand the complex topics covered under the umbrella of diversity. You can find resources that discuss different cultures, customs and lifestyles. With time, these messages will become engrained in their minds.
These books and shows will help to spark new ideas and discussions in your household. In fact, they may even inspire your family to take an international trip or learn a new language.
4. Keep Diverse Toys in the House
When choosing toys for your kids, it’s tempting to pick out the dolls which look like them. Instead, try to buy a wide variety of styles. People come in all colors, shapes and sizes, and a child’s toys should represent that. As they play, they’ll appreciate the beauty in these differences.
5. Lead by Example
Your child is watching you to see if your actions match your words. Your kids will notice if you speak of equality and fairness but then laugh at inappropriate jokes or treat others impolitely. While it’s important to monitor how you express yourself around impressionable young people, you should try to act civilly at all times. Lead by example because your children are taking their cues from you. More specifically, keeping a diverse friend group will demonstrate that you genuinely believe everyone is special and consequential.
The best way to lead is by educating yourself. Read books on diversity and become familiar with racial biases present in modern society. The more you learn, the easier it will be to teach your children. There will always be more to discover and ways to improve, so encourage yourself and your family to make the world a better place through your actions.
6. Correct Your Child When Necessary
Your kids are human, and they will make mistakes sometimes. Instead of ignoring their actions or writing them off as bad behavior, sit them down and talk. Ask why they acted rudely and explain how their deeds impact others. It’s essential to correct those behaviors, so they do not happen again.
Before jumping to conclusions, ask your child if there was a reason for their behavior. Keep questioning them until you get to the real reason they were acting a certain way. Perhaps they saw someone else do the same thing, or a boy pulled their hair, so they decided all boys were rude. You won’t truly understand their actions without challenging their shallow answers.
Be Open to Conversation
It’s crucial to teach your children about diversity from a young age. This will stop judgment and bias before it has a chance to solidify. Utilize these six steps, but remember to keep the conversation open. As your child grows, they will come into contact with a wide variety of people and personalities. By staying open to discussions about diversity, you can continue to guide your kids and positively influence their mindset.