We live in an increasingly diverse world, and recent global unrest shows how crucial it is to promote values like acceptance and empathy. As a parent, you have the unique privilege and opportunity to instill respect for others in your child.
How can you teach your children about diversity? Here are eight activities that you can partake in to foster openness, understanding and respect in your kids.
1. Include All Their Friends in Festivities
Social media provides a pleasant distraction, but now and then, it depresses you with a story about a child with autism or another condition getting left out of group festivities. Parents, when you throw birthday parties and the like for your little one, please invite everyone in their class — picking and choosing inevitably leads to hurt feelings and disappointment.
Remember, too, that a diagnosis doesn’t define a child – there’s much more to them than their crutches or wheelchair. You might be surprised at how many children naturally make accommodations when playing games like “Horse” so that their peers with different abilities can join in the fun.
2. Embrace Diversity Yourself
What do the other parents in your child’s playgroup look like? Do any of them have a different skin tone than yours? Do any of the moms wear a hijab?
Children imitate what you do far more than what you say. If your kiddos witness you interacting with friends of every shape, size, color and ethnic heritage, they’ll learn to treat everyone the same regardless of how they look or what they wear.
3. Visit Cultural Museums
Why not make one of your weekend excursions a museum field trip to one featuring an exhibit celebrating an interesting culture? Your children can explore anything from the world of African art to ancient Japanese sword-making.
4. Attend Worship Services
If you have friends who belong to a different religious faith than you do, open the door if you feel comfortable by asking if you can accompany them to a service. Be respectful in your approach. It’s okay to say that you’re teaching your children about religious diversity, and you would welcome the chance to have them attend in-person worship firsthand.
Ask plenty of questions before your visit to avoid making any faux pas. Some houses of worship prohibit cameras, for example — you don’t want to offend by snapping a selfie with that fresco. Likewise, many have unspoken dress codes, such as wearing long pants and sleeves or appropriately covering your head.
5. Travel as Much as Possible
It’s an unfortunate fact of life – travel is expensive, and kids are, too. However, as much as possible, hit the open road. Like Mark Twain once said, travel is fatal to prejudice.
You don’t necessarily need to spend much on accommodations that your family will love. The glamping craze has created unique lodgings like yurts and even treehouses that often cost less than traditional hotels.
6. Embrace Your Public School System
If money isn’t much of a worry in your household, you might consider sending your child to a private school. While such institutions offer a host of advantages, greater exposure to diversity isn’t one of them. Many such academies predominantly enroll those from the same socioeconomic background.
If possible, consider embracing your public school system. They invest considerable time and resources into diversity efforts to ensure they meet the needs of all students.
7. Explore the World Through Cuisine
Are you a happy “foodie” family? If your clan loves nothing more than sitting down to a hearty meal, why not explore cultural diversity through your meals?
The advent of technology means that you don’t have to line your countertops with international cookbooks. You can find everything you need online.
When doing your meal prep, why not organize your weeks into themes? You could have one week where you explore Asian cuisine, then hop over to India the following.
8. Discuss Issues Like Racism
Many parents shy away from tackling tough topics like racism with their children. However, they’re going to hear about the issue at school and in the news – shouldn’t you master at least part of the messages they hear?
Before having the discussion, take some time to examine your biases — do you unconsciously project racial prejudice by saying things like, “Mexico is a dangerous nation,” when you’ve never visited the country? Ask your child how they feel and what they’ve heard. Use tools like picture books to explain concepts to your youngest kiddos and empower and instill confidence in black children.
Teach Your Child About Diversity These 8 Ways
Perhaps now more than ever, children need lessons in respect and mutual understanding. Please use the eight tips above to teach your child about diversity.
Do you think it’s important to teach kids about diversity? How do you teach your kids to embrace differences in others? Tell us in the comments below.