Your family’s cultural background can shape your and your child’s (and your extended family member’s) behaviors, lifestyle, and perspectives regarding your community and the world. When children feel a sense of pride and self-esteem with and for their cultural background, their well-being can be positively affected, their perspectives can be diversified, and their contributions to society can be worthwhile and productive. While it is important for children to learn to embrace their roots, it is also important for your child to recognize and accept the diverse cultures and traditions of others. You are your child’s first teacher and their best role model. Show them how to celebrate their heritage and honor the differences in others. Here are some strategies you can use to help your child value the diversity that they and their peers can offer to make the world a beautiful and rich place.
Five Ways to Instill Cultural and Ethnic Pride in Your Children
Exhibit pride in your traditions. Be a role model for your child. Uphold your traditions like cooking cultural foods, wearing traditional garments, and speaking your native language at home. Teach your child love for their roots while maintaining respect for the traditions of others.
Teach your child to feel proud of their heritage. Talk about your cultural background in a positive light. Honestly teach your children about your family’s history, and indicate how your family, including your child, comes from strong and resilient people. Discuss, in an age-appropriate way, the obstacles that you’ve overcome personally and as a member of an ethnic or racial group and the challenges some ethnic and racial groups have confronted and surmounted. Highlight the strengths and positive outcomes that arose from your and others’ persistence and efforts, and remind your child that they, too, possess that same strength and persistence.
Teach your child love for themself. Remind your child that the features that make them unique also make them special. Provide them with affirmations to appreciate their skin, hair, voice, abilities, experiences, and other characteristics that can promote their self-love and self-worth. Praise the actions and behaviors that they do well, and help your child become confident in who they are and in what they believe.
Find books, apps, games, and digital media programming with diverse characters in varied roles. Help your child see themself reflected in media (e.g., books, images, movies, games, social media) and in the activities they love. Recognizing these representations can boost your child’s imagination, expedite their budding aspirations, and help them see themself as the star of their own story.
Get involved in your child’s school. Ensure your ethnicity, traditions, and customs are respected and not ignored. Advocate for observance of your cultural traditions. Encourage visibility of your culture through images, stories, and activities, and be willing to respond appropriately to misrepresentations of your roots.
Five Ways to Honor Differences in Others’ Heritage
Ask questions and acknowledge how our differences make us special. Ensure your child understands that it is okay to ask (and answer) questions related to different cultural backgrounds; however, remind them, that personal heritages and experiences are unique to individuals and families, and one person does not qualify as the spokesperson for their specific cultural group(s). Be prepared to promote understanding and respect, listen openly to other perspectives, and practice cultural competency and humility.
Learn more about other cultures. Consider participating in cultural events and festivals. Read books, visit restaurants, and watch documentaries that represent experiences that are different from your own. However, be mindful not to perpetuate common stereotypes regarding other groups.
Create a welcoming and inclusive environment. Treat others with respect and dignity, and demonstrate tolerance. Recognize the shared humanity among all people. Understand that everyone shares basic needs and desires (e.g., food, safety, love, happiness, peace). Develop sincere relationships with people from different backgrounds who have different abilities and experiences.
Acknowledge and discuss current events related to different racial/ethnic groups with your child. Identify news and events that celebrate diversity, and learn and respect customs associated with various traditional events or holidays. Conversely, create a safe space to discuss your and your child’s feelings regarding racial inequalities and injustices. Listen to your child’s concerns and engage in age-appropriate conversations with them.
Speak up in the face of bias. Embrace differences. Remain calm and self-assured during challenging and even negative times. Encourage your child to stand up for their beliefs. Demonstrate productive ways to challenge negative stereotypes or bring attention to signs that others are being mistreated—whether the representations are in person, in books, on television, or in social media.
Heritage and History Months that Celebrate Diversity
February – Black History Month
March – Women’s History Month, Irish American Heritage Month
April – National Deaf History Month (March 15 – April 15), Arab American Heritage Month
May – Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander Heritage; Older Americans Month; Jewish American Heritage Month; Military Appreciation Month
June – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month; Caribbean American Heritage Month; National Immigrant Heritage Month; World Refugee Day
July – Disability Pride Month
September – National Hispanic-Latinx Heritage Month (September15-October 15)
October – National Disability Employment Awareness Month, National Italian American Heritage Month, LBGTQ+ History Month
November – National American Indian Heritage Month; National Veterans and Military Families Month
Common Sense Media provides a list of books that promote diversity and inclusion at https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/books-that-promote-diversity-and-inclusion.
Healthychildren.org recommends a range of diverse and inclusive reading materials for children at https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/emotional-wellness/Building-Resilience/Pages/Diverse-and-Inclusive-Books-for-Children.aspx.
Healthychildren.org also offers suggestions on how books can help families discuss topics related to race and racism at https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/emotional-wellness/Building-Resilience/Pages/using-books-to-talk-with-kids-about-race-and-racism.aspx.
Apps and Games:
Common Sense Media provides a list of apps and games that have diverse characters who represent multicultural experiences and perspectives and that can support families in diversifying their media selections. Find the list at https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/apps-and-games-with-diverse-characters
Blinken, A. J. (n.d.). State Department celebrates heritage and history months. United States Department of State. https://www.state.gov/state-department-celebrates-heritage-and-history-months/#immigrant-heritage-month-and-world-refugee-day
Du Plessis, M. (2023, April 3). Celebrating diversity: Embracing our differences. LinkedIn.https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/celebrating-diversity-embracing-our-differences-minette-du-plessis/
Healthychildren.org. (2022, September 26). Celebrating heritage: Tips for parents.https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/Pages/celebrating-heritage-tips-for-parents.aspx
Iurato, A. (2022, March 30). How to honor heritage and identity (Without ruining it). LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-honor-heritage-identity-without-ruining-allison-iurato/
Kaiser, B., & Rasminsky, J. S. (2020, January). Valuing diversity: Developing a deeper understanding of all young children’s behavior. National Association for the Education of Young Children. https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/tyc/dec2019/valuing-diversity-developing-understanding-behavior
Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging. (n.d.). Heritage months and identity recognitions. Harvard University. https://edib.harvard.edu/heritage-months
Sanchez, B. (2021, September 13). Teaching children cultural and racial pride. Healthychildren.org. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/Pages/Teaching-Children-Cultural-and-Racial-Pride.aspx