How to Talk to Kids About Tolerance, Acceptance, and Diversity

“Mom, why is that person in a wheelchair?”

“Dad, why do Sam and I look so different?”

We have all been there. Kids ask difficult questions, often at inconvenient times. Sometimes we shush them or feel embarrassed about the issue they have raised. As parents, teaching tolerance and acceptance and embracing diversity and inclusion are part of the job description – and it even can be one of the perks!

As parents, we can try to be prepared and put in place strategies that help our children understand the diverse world in which we live. Explore your family’s cultural and ethnic background. Many of the things we do every day as parents trace back to our cultural roots, and we may take for granted that our children understand why we do what we do. Be vocal, explore traditions, and tell stories. These actions and activities can open the door to exciting conversations with your kids.

Along with looking at your family’s background, explore and celebrate how other people do things. Learning with your kids can be an exciting way to build cultural competence and invite the value of inclusivity to your family. Exposure to other cultures, traditions, religions, races, and ethnicities can help children cultivate an understanding of who they are and an awareness of the diverse world around them. Attending cultural festivals, reading books that highlight diversity, eating different foods, encouraging diverse friend groups, and exploring cultural stereotypes in media are all great ways to build inclusive values.

Even when families have a solid foundation and family values that nurture and support acceptance, the time will come when your child shouts something that makes you feel uncomfortable in the moment. At this point, it is important to take a breath and respond in a manner that is calm, caring, positive, matter-of-fact, and non-judgmental. These moments provide some of your best opportunities to connect with your child and continue his or her learning about tolerance and acceptance in a meaningful way.

(Reposted from April 3, 2018)

Additional Resources

Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness. (2018). Inclusivity: How to talk to your kids about tolerance and acceptance. Retrieved from http://talktoyourkids.info

PBS Parents. (2018). Talking with Kids. Positive Ways to Talk and Listen. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/parents/talkingwithkids/strategies.html

We’ve put together a list of books for kids about tolerance, acceptance, and diversity. Click here to download the book list.

Teens and COVID-19

Schedules, routines, our very lives have been changed by COVID-19. Entire families have been affected, but social distancing may be especially difficult for teenagers who aren’t able to visit friends and are missing important milestones, such as graduations, proms, and sporting events. Parents may find it difficult to motivate teens to complete school work or daily tasks or keep them engaged in activities due to the current climate.

Please find here some ideas that can provide opportunities for your teen to take on responsibility and contribute to your family and community in ways that are unique and challenging.

Shift responsibilities!

  • If your teen has younger siblings, he or she can help care for them by planning lunch time, creating playtime activities, or finding fun ways to help them complete school work.
  • Can your teens do the dishes and take out the trash? Put them in charge of certain chores, or give them recycling responsibilities and have them research where you can drop off different types of recyclables that may not be collected by your pickup service.
  • If your teen likes to cook, ask him or her to come up with some new recipes, plan the grocery list, and cook a meal for the family.

Maintain virtual connections!

  • Put your teen in charge of creating ways to stay connected with family and friends on a regular basis. For example, themed Zoom chats or virtual game nights can be fun for all age groups.
  • Have your teen create a family email chain that can be used to exchange news, recipes, pictures, and more.
  • See if your teen can use a social media platform as a creative way to do dance battles with family and friends.
  • Is your teen active in the arts, or musically inclined? If so, ask him or her to create a new song or develop a performance to present virtually to family and friends.

Design family projects!

  • Ask your teen to take the lead on a family project (e.g., create a family photo album) that includes the entire family, and ask him or her to delegate roles and responsibilities to each family member – those close and far.
  • If your child is media savvy, ask him or her to take or use existing family photos to create a slide show and have a premier night – make popcorn or s’mores.
  • Suggest that your teen make a family tree, contact grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other extended family to learn more about his or her family history.
  • Have your child create a virtual 5K for family and friends to participate in together.

Declutter and donate!

  • Ask teens to go through their rooms and pick clothes that do not fit or toys or old games they no longer use and package them for donation.
  • Talk to your teen about organizing a family garage or basement clean-out, and throw away or donate items that are no longer in use.

Volunteer within the community!

  • There are many volunteer opportunities in communities that follow social distancing guidelines.
    • Ask your teen to search online for opportunities in which they can help others, such as working in a group to plant or maintain the community garden or collecting food for the food pantry.
    • Suggest your teen use his or her social media platform to spread acts of kindness or make someone feel special (e.g., sharing a positive post about a friend or family member, using Facebook to raise money for a charity).

Helping teens discover ways to take on more responsibility and become leaders in their families and communities is a great use of energy. It can help support their self-esteem and allow them to contribute. In addition, being of service to others may help to mitigate feelings of depression and loneliness.

References

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2020). Teens and Covid-19: Challenges and opportunities during the outbreak. Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/chest-lungs/Pages/Teens-and-COVID-19.aspx

Talking to Children about Germs, COVID-19, and Practicing Proper Hygiene

Child washing hands with soap

With the recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), many children may have questions about the virus or germs in general.

What are Germs?

Germs are everywhere! They are small and can enter our bodies without us knowing. Some germs can live on surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, countertops) for a short period of time. Once they invade a human body, however, they can make a person sick. The easiest way to prevent the spread of germs is through handwashing!

Bacteria are tiny cells that obtain nutrients from their environment, which in some cases may be the human body, and can reproduce either inside or outside of a human body (KidsHealth, 2018). Ear infections, strep throat, and pneumonia are all examples of illnesses that can be caused by bacteria. Antibiotics can be used to help kill unwanted bacteria inside of the body. However, not all bacteria are bad. Some bacteria are good and help to keep our bodies functioning normally!

Viruses need to be inside living cells to reproduce (KidsHealth, 2018). A virus cannot survive long outside of a host, like a human or an animal. Viruses can cause the common cold; the flu; sinusitis; bronchitis; or other diseases, such as COVID-19. Antibiotics cannot be used to kill viruses; however, antiviral medications and vaccines can help to fight viruses or even prevent viruses from making a person sick.

How to Talk to Children about the COVID-19 Virus

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) (2020) has developed some general principles for how to talk to children about the COVID-19 virus.

  • Remain calm and reassuring.
  • Make yourself available to listen and to talk.
  • Avoid language that might blame others and lead to stigma.
  • Pay attention to what children see or hear on television or media outlets.
  • Provide information that is honest and accurate.
  • Teach children everyday actions to reduce the spread of germs.

How to help Children practice Good Hygiene

Parents can help children prevent the spread of germs by teaching children specific manners to be used when they are sick and showing them how to maintain proper hygiene. According to the CDC (2020), some ways parents can teach children everyday actions to reduce the spread of germs are as follows:

  • Remind children to stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing or who seem sick.
  • Remind children to cough or sneeze into their elbow or a tissue, and then throw the tissue into the trash.
  • Get children into a hand-washing habit.
    • Teach children to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing their noses, coughing, sneezing, going to the bathroom, and before eating or preparing food. Have them sing the Happy Birthday song twice while they wash their hands; that will equal 20 seconds!
    • If soap and water are not available, teach them to use a hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizers should contain at least 60% alcohol. Supervise young children at home, school, and child care facilities when they use a hand sanitizer to prevent them from swallowing the product.

For more information about COVID-19, please visit the CDC’s website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/

References

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2020, March). Talking with children about coronavirus disease 2019: Messages for parents, school staff, and others working with children. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/talking-with-children.html

KidsHealth. (2018, July). What are Germs? Retrieved from https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/germs.html