Parenting is the most challenging job there is. No debates necessary. The stakes are high. Effective parents set out to rear productive, responsible members of society. Our hope is that our children will grow up in a world free from rejection and disappointments. A world where they will be loved and valued for their individuality.
So, how do we prepare our children for the diverse world that we live in? How do we teach our kids to respect and appreciate that we are all different?
For starters, let’s be honest and open with our children. Have you ever heard that we are all cut from the same cloth? Or that we are all humans who bleed the same? Well, to some extent that is true. Yes, we are all human and we share many commonalities, but the reality is that we ARE different. And that is a GOOD thing. From our skin color to our religious beliefs to our family structures, we are a vast and dynamic world that is ever-changing. It is okay to point out differences to our children. If you foster a sense of pride in your child’s own culture and background and history, it is easy for them to relate to someone with different experiences who shares that same pride.
One of the tasks of a parent is to teach their children compassion. Compassion has no color, sex, religious preference, or sexual orientation. Compassion is about loving people. ALL people. One way to teach compassion and tolerance is to plan service learningactivities. Visit a women’s shelter. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Donate toys to a children’s center. Giving to others in the form of time or tangible things helps your child to look beyond circumstances to see that all people respond to kindness and compassion.
Expose your children to a variety of experiences. Visit museums, exhibits and festivals that highlight different cultures. Choose books and programs that celebrate diversity. Explore different cuisines. It’s important for children to see that the world as they see it is not necessarily the same as their classmate’s or neighbor’s perspective.
It seems that stereotypes and offensive jokes have become ingrained in pop culture and social media. Monitor your child’s exposure to social media. Much of what we see on TV, on the news, and on social media perpetuates divisiveness. Empower your child to speak up for what’s right and steer away from negative influences.
We can read every book there is on diversity to our children and we can monitor social media. We can volunteer at shelters all over town. All these things are great, but the most important thing a parent can do is model for your children what you expect from them. If you want to raise a child who is loving, un-biased and appreciative of others’ differences, then you must be an example.