Diversity And Children Series - Part 2
This is a series of four posts. Part one is a general explanation of diversity in the classroom. Part two is the role of the parents in teaching their children diversity, part three the role of the school, and part four the role of the teachers.
The first contact of children with culture is through their parents’ lenses or filters through which they view the world. It is central to what they learn, how they make sense of what they see, and how they express themselves. When children reach the point where they start attending school, then it becomes the role of both the parents and teachers to help filter information.
Parents carry the first responsibility in educating their children about diversity, and they should provide a safe environment to discuss the topic, where stereotyping is not accepted or engaged in. Parents need to set an example that reinforces acceptance, equality and cultural competence, by looking at the way they handle diversities themselves, and how they handle their prejudice and bias.
These are few ideas for the parents to practice with their children to develop their sense of diversity:
- Read books with your children about other cultures, showing people of various races and ethnic backgrounds. Many libraries have great selections about different cultures and societies from around the world.
- Participate as a family in different cultural festivals that can be also fun for the children.
- Children emulate their parents so show them that you are accepting and tolerant to other cultures.
- Encourage your child to make friends with other children even if they are different, in the neighborhood or at school to learn looking at a person as just a person, no matter how different they look on the outside or how is their name different.
- Don’t stop children from noticing or commenting on the differences they see. As sometimes because of our own discomfort, we quickly change the subject of differences when it comes up. By shying away from open discussion of the differences that kids observe, you send a message. What you are saying, without even knowing it, is that there's something wrong with those differences.
- Take seriously your child's comments and questions about prejudice. Be as clear and honest as you can when you answer. For example if they don’t want to play with a child that has a different skin color or look different than they are, or they don’t want to share their food as they think that their food smells or looks funny.
- Sometimes kids bring home slurs, racist comments, taunts and teases that they hear from other kids (or sometimes adults). You do need to speak up at once, telling your child why it is wrong to repeat the insults. If your child uses any of those expressions towards another child; you intervene, stop the name-calling and make your child apologize is a good start, but a discussion has to start. Discuss the real reason of the argument, and help your child realize what the problem really is. Help them understand that it doesn't have anything to do with skin color or any other differences.
- Deal with their fear or anger if they are discriminated against; explain that the name calling is used to make them feel bad, that they shouldn't. Explain that they are not a bad person, no matter what anyone says. Tell them how you feel proud of whom you are, and they should feel the same. Take the matter to the other child’s parents or to the school.