“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.
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.