Teaching your Child the Importance of Diversity and Inclusiveness
Date Posted:18 June 2020
Children notice these differences from a very young age but they haven't been exposed to real-world prejudices and stereotypes yet to put a label on those differences. Teaching your child about diversity and inclusiveness from a young age will shape how they view the world and how they interact with others as they get older. Here's when children start noticing differences: 1
2 to 3-year-olds: Your child will start noticing differences in skin colour and appearance, including the names of those features. However, they don't assign meanings to those names and labels.
4 to 6-year-olds: Your child will learn to identify their own race or ethnicity. They might have a positive or negative label on that identity.
7-year-olds and above: Your child's understanding of their own identity will only deepen. They might start forming opinions about people of other race, abilities, etc. as well.
It is important to teach them to acknowledge these differences and that they are not wrong, just different. We all want to raise accepting, tolerant, and empathetic children. Learning about diversity and inclusion starts at home. Here are some ways you can encourage and teach your child:
1. Allow them to consume media that celebrates diversity and inclusion 2
The media shapes a lot of our understanding and perception of the world. There are children's books for various ages that teach inclusion. Here is a list of kid-friendly TV shows and movies that educate them about diversity. Many children are also consuming YouTube videos and TEDEducation is a good channel that has speakers of various backgrounds sharing their experiences.
2. Encourage positive discussions about differences2
It is important to have honest, age-appropriate talks with your child about the differences they recognise in others. It is counter-productive when adults pretend these differences don't exist. By acknowledging these differences and having conversations about them at a young age, your child will grow up to be more understanding and compassionate. They will also learn how to appreciate these differences.
If your child points out how another child at their child care or school have a different skin colour, for example, you will want to acknowledge that and say, "Yes, people do have skin colours, they may look different to you, but that's the beauty of the world we live in." Keep your explanations positive, for example when talking about people with disabilities, discuss how their aids (hearing aids, wheelchair, etc.) help them, instead of saying that they can't hear or walk.3
3. Prepare them about what they will read on the Internet or hear from others2
When dealing with Internet content, you might want to discuss how some people use platforms on the Internet to spread extreme views. You might also want to talk about how negative and incorrect stereotypes can grow online and spread hate, and what harm those stereotypes can do. This is a good time to teach them how to be critical when reading articles or stories online — train them to ask questions about whether content is written intentionally to be inflammatory, is it only written from one person's perspective, etc.. Teach them to stand up against any negative stereotypes that their friends might bring up at school. Teach them to try to educate people about such issues and know when to pick their fights as some might not be willing to learn.
4. Be a role model4
Like all other important life-skills moments, ensure that you set a good example for your child to follow. As adults, we know how difficult it can be to unlearn many prejudices and stereotypes that we were taught as children. By setting a good example for your child, they can start learning from your actions and words from young. Seeing you respond positively to diversity in a supportive and empathetic way can teach your child to have a positive attitude and to respect people regardless of their differences. There might be times when you slip-up but don't fret because you can use that as a teaching opportunity.
Growing up to become a respectful person
It is crucial that we teach our children to acknowledge differences and that being different doesn't make anyone "lesser" than others. By teaching your child about diversity and inclusion, they will grow up to be a more compassionate, empathetic, and respectful person.
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1. Foundations Counselling, Teaching Your Kids About Diversity and Inclusion. (Link)
2. Kloss, K. The Parent's Guide to Teaching Kids About Cultural Diversity and Inclusion. (Link)
3. Hutton, L. 6 Tips to Talk to Your Kids About Disabilities. (Link)
4. Brookes Publishing. 8 Ways to Show Young Children that Diversity is A Strength. (Link)