One of the most important lessons that a child can be exposed to from early on is that the people around them might sometimes look, speak, or act alike – but they might also do it differently. A lesson like this is a great learning opportunity to set the basis for understanding, and embracing, diversity.
According to LuAnn Hoover, instructor of family studies and human services, children begin to notice certain differences – like physical characteristics – when they’re just 2 years old. Hoover also believes that this “…age is also the critical time when toddlers begin to form attitudes based on significant others, including parents and teachers.”
With this in mind, it becomes more clear that this vulnerable age is the perfect time to begin teaching children about certain topics like diversity. How? By acting as a role model and showcasing the behaviour you’d like the child to emulate. After all, “actions speak louder than words” and it’s more likely that your child will pay attention to how you act over what you say.
By inculcating an understanding and an acceptance of diversity from an early age, children are more likely to be accepting of others who are different from them, instead of resorting to fear and confusion when faced with an unfamiliar situation.
This is especially important when it comes to educating children who are being raised in a multicultural household and who are more likely to interact with people from different backgrounds on a regular basis.
Once they learn to celebrate diversity, children have an even bigger opportunity to understand that everyone they meet – including themselves – has unique abilities, thoughts, and gifts to share with the world. With this, they can also begin to understand that these qualities that make them special are not a cause for shame or embarrassment.
On the contrary, they should be encouraged!
Teaching a child that there’s power in what makes them different will help strengthen their self-esteem from a young age. That way, instead of wanting to be more or act more like someone else, children will start to harness a sense of pride in what sets them apart from others.
A few of our favorite ways to teach children about diversity
Whether you’re a teacher, parent, or guardian, there are many ways to begin speaking to a child about diversity and teaching them the importance of celebrating and accepting our differences.
Here are some of our favorite places to start:
- Set a good example with the words you say and the actions you take.
- Find books and movies that showcase different characters and teach your child about different cultures, races, languages, etc.
- Celebrate diverse role models and teach children about their accomplishments in sports, the arts, science, etc. Show your child that you can achieve anything you desire and it doesn’t matter what you look like, the language you speak, etc.
- Choose special events related to your or your child’s heritage to celebrate at home. Use this moment to educate them about their meaning and significance.
- Challenge stereotypes and have a conversation with your child about the harm they cause.
- Let your child know that it’s OK to ask questions rather than stigmatizing them.
- Guide your child in an activity to share the things that make them unique and special to help build their identity and strengthen their self-esteem.
Celebrating diversity – in the classroom, the playground, and at home – is a great way to create a safe space for everyone. One that’s filled with tolerance, patience, and a love for the community, and that also teaches children a lifelong skill that they’ll need into adulthood during social and professional interactions.
In what ways have you tackled the topic of diversity with your children? Let me know below 🌎