As your kids start to interact more with the world around them, you might find that they’ll become curious about other people, especially people and kids that seem different from them. Teaching your kids about the range of diversity that exists, and modeling tolerant and celebratory behaviors, is a great way to help your child contribute in positive ways to the world around him.
- Are there opportunities to attend cultural events in your area? Whether it’s a performance of traditional dance from a specific culture, a museum exhibit of artwork, clothing, and artifacts from a different time and place, or a festival celebrating a variety of ethnic foods, exposing your children to different aspects of other cultures can be a fun way to start conversations and build a bit of familiarity and understanding.
- What you watch on television can make a big impact. Make a point to watch shows with your children that showcase characters of different races and cultural backgrounds brings just a bit of diversity into your home.
- Take advantage of books that emphasize multiculturalism. The books Children Just Like Me, The Skin You Live In, and It’s Okay To Be Different, are each great ways to introduce your child to the fact that different skin colors and ethnicities are abundant in our society, and are meant to be embraced. Talk to your daycare or preschool provider about which books they recommend for even more reading.
- Answer questions with honesty. Don’t feel the need to wave away a child’s questions about race, or to gloss over important truths. The reality is that most kids are very capable of understanding basic answers to questions about other races or cultures, and giving them the opportunity to learn at a young age will allow them to practice tolerance and kindness.
- Encourage questions. If your child makes a new friend of a different race, hears a word she has never heard before to describe another person, or sees something on the news that interests her, prompt her to ask questions about her curiosity.
- Examine your own thought system. Make sure that you’re modeling a positive attitude toward other cultures in your speech, your interactions with others, and in the media you consume in front of your children.
- Take a stand against intolerance. If your child witnesses behavior in public that seems intolerant of other cultures, explain to him why that behavior is wrong and what open and accepting behavior looks like. If you hear disrespectful language or see intolerant behavior happening at home, modeled by an extended family member or friend, be sure to address the behavior so that it is not repeated in your household.
- Think about a pen pal. There are numerous programs that will allow your kids to communicate with someone in another part of the world, and that will help your child to foster a relationship with someone different from her, but maybe not as different as expected! Kid World Citizen is a great program to look into.
- Celebrate holidays, and learn in the process. Whether you attend a special story time devoted to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on MLK Day, a colorful party on the Indian holiday of Holi, or a Chinese New Year celebration, your kids are sure to have a great time and learn a bit in the process.
- Buy a globe or an atlas. Is your child asking questions about where different families he knows come from? Show him on a globe or a large map or atlas. You can also show him where his ancestors are from, in order to teach him that in America, most of us hail from somewhere far away!
Do any of you have a story to share about helping your children to understand, experience, and celebrate diversity? Let us know in the comments section!