Exploring Diversity with Children
Posted on January 24, 2017 by CHS
Think about the many people you interact with daily. No matter where you live, you can probably think of individuals you work with, live near, or meet socially who have different opinions, speak another language, or have unique abilities.
Our world is home to many rich histories, cultures, and traditions. Learning to accept and appreciate our similarities and differences is a key part of our development, and should be included in your child’s education, both at school and at home.
What is Diversity and Multi-cultural Education?
Diversity is broader than skin color, gender, or ethnicity—it encompasses our variety of differences, such as background, views, and cultures. Culture refers to a group that shares traditions and beliefs, found within age groups, ethnic groups, or social groups. For instance, your family has one culture, you have a “work culture,” and your child will have a “school culture.”
Diversity and culture are not lesson plans that can be taught, or events to be celebrated; they are concepts that require ongoing and intentional education.
Children should learn about their own backgrounds, as well as those who are different from them. They should be encouraged to notice similarities and differences and accept them with positive attitudes, learn that intolerance of another culture is never acceptable, and understand that there is not one “best” or “right” way to do things.
Promoting acceptance of diversity is key to the social development of children. It builds their self-esteem, shapes their perceptions of the world around them, teaches empathy, and builds cooperation. As a parent, you can help teach your children about other cultures and promote a positive attitude. Be aware of your own biases— children will quickly pick up on those attitudes and beliefs.
How to Help Teach Your Child about Diversity
- Encourage Curiosity: Encourage your child’s questions about differences, and discuss them openly and honestly, guiding them to see how those differences make other people unique and valuable, just like them.
- Multi-Cultural Entertainment: Watch television shows and movies together that display positive messages about other cultures and races, as well as disabilities. Disney movies can be great for this, as well as local Public Broadcasting Stations (PBS). For a listing of children’s programs visit http://www.pbssocal.org/kids/. You can also visit https://www.commonsensemedia.org/ to explore the content of movies, television shows, and more.
- Read Books Together: Some children’s books you can look for in your local public library are: Stand In My Shoes: Kids Learning about Empathy by Bob Sornson Ph.D., Heartprints and A Rainbow of Friends by P. K. Halliman, Someone Special, Just Like You by Tricia Brown, Families by Ann Morris, Everybody Bakes Bread by Norah Dooley, Everybody Works by Shelley Rotner and Ken Kreisler, and Lots of Grandparents by Shelley Rotner and Sheila Kelly.
- Explore Your Community: Walk around the neighborhood, visit new restaurants, take field trips, enjoy unique community resources and museums, and attend cultural events in your neighborhood.
- Participate at School: Ask your child’s teacher or caregiver what they are doing to promote diversity, and with permission contribute photos, crafts, foods, or materials from your culture to your child’s learning environment.
Children who have a strong sense of who they are and learn to accept others will be more likely to form positive relationships throughout their lives, and confront prejudice in constructive ways. You can teach your children that every human being is worthy of respect, acceptance, love, and understanding.