The world is a pretty diverse place and it’s getting smaller every day. Whether through electronic media, school, sports or other outside activities, our children are now being introduced to people from diverse backgrounds. They are likely to meet and interact with those from different religious or ethnic backgrounds as well as those with different sexual orientations and ways of life. Teaching our kids to not only respect but also accept and celebrate this diversity would go a long way towards building a more tolerant world.
The best time to start teaching kids to embrace diversity is when they’re still young. From a young age, kids are naturally inquisitive and curious about the world. They are also largely non-judgmental about people and situations that differ from what they’re used to. These traits make it easier to teach them to respect all people.
This doesn’t mean that teens can’t be taught to embrace differences in others. In fact, teens might be better placed than kids to recognize these differences and stand up to prejudice and stereotypes when they encounter them.
It doesn’t matter how old your kids are, it’s never too late to teach them to appreciate diversity. Here are some tips on how to go about doing that:
Walk the talk.
Our kids are always watching us so what you do has a bigger impact on them than what you say. How you treat others, including those who are different from you, sets the stage for how your kids interact with the world.
If you want your kids to respect others, set a good example for them to emulate. Start by examining your own behavior and confronting your biases. Instead of making “harmless” jokes based on stereotypes or hurling racial epithets, make an effort to understand and accept others. When teaching your kids to embrace diversity, lead by example and make sure your actions don’t contradict the lessons you’re trying to impart.
Expose your kids to new experiences.
Exposing your children to new experiences teaches them to appreciate the diverse world we live in. They learn that there are other people with different cultures, traditions, and unique perspectives and that’s okay. Introducing your kids to a wide range of people also teaches them that the differences they see in others are not to be feared or ridiculed but respected.
If you don’t live in a diverse community, you can visit museums or other cultural institutions, read diverse books or take trips or vacations to different places to help broaden your children’s world view.
Don’t ignore or deny differences.
In a misguided attempt to fight racism, some parents teach their kids not to see color, insisting that we’re all the same. While well-intentioned, this approach ignores the multiethnic and multicultural society kids nowadays live in. Ignoring these differences doesn’t work. What does is teaching our kids to recognize and acknowledge that the differences exist.
Additionally, help them understand the racial, ethnic and other disparities minorities face. It might be uncomfortable to discuss discrimination and other daunting topics but they need to be tackled if our kids are to learn to appreciate diversity.
Teach your children to love variety.
Direct and open communication with our kids will help them understand the world. Be open with them about how we differ in appearance, race, religion, politics, sexual orientation, culture, etc. When your kids ask questions about these differences, answer them as honestly as you can. Provide age-appropriate explanations for what might be confusing to them. Also remind your kids that although we might be different from one another, we can still find some common ground to help us connect e.g. in the
sports, games, toys or even movies we like.
We live in a world that’s full of diversity and how we react to the differences we see in others determines the kind of world we create. Teaching our kids to celebrate, respect and embrace this diversity is a sure way of creating a more tolerant world where we can all thrive in spite of our differences.
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