In the wake of any tragedy, parents are left with questions on how to talk to their kids about it which is a big enough task on it’s own, but when the tragedy involves hate crimes and racism there are new questions regarding diversity, inclusion, love and acceptance.
How do we teach our kids to love and respect all people regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or any other thing that may be different from us?
While I do think that these conversations are important and there are ways to be intentional about raising kids that are inclusive and accepting off all people , there are many things we can learn from kids and how they naturally approach the differences of others.
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Differences aren't as important as similarities.
Though we are not, my siblings and I all have biracial or multi-ethnic kids. This means the cousins come in all different shades from extremely fair (my youngest nephew) to pretty pigmented (that would be my child!). When my son was a baby, my youngest nephew made a comment that the baby looked like him. We all found it quite funny because, skin color aside, they don't look anything alike. Not even a little bit.
I really don't know what it is that my nephew saw in my son that made him think they looked alike but he saw something and in his wonderful innocence he chose to focus on that.
What if, instead of constantly pointing out how we are different from each other, we were more like my nephew and proudly identified our similarities?
Differences are celebrated.
We come in all different colors, shapes and sizes which certainly doesn't go unnoticed by children but I have noticed in almost 20 years of working with kids that kids often like the differences of others. They are fascinated with skin color or hair color that is different from their own. I've known kids that want baby dolls of a different complexion because they find it beautiful.
But adults will tell kids not to point out that their friend has a different texture hair or that her skin is two shades darker. While we may think it is “rude”, what we are really doing is sending a message that the different texture and skin color is bad or wrong.
What if, instead of pretending diversity didn’t exist, we actually celebrated it?
Differences can be explored.
Sometimes kids do have what seems to be a negative reaction to someone else’s differences. They can be unsure or even afraid of someone that is not able bodied like them or who talks "funny" but one thing you can count on is kids will explore the differences.
They will look, maybe even touch and they will ask questions. As adults that "know better" we will tell them it's not polite and, yes, to some degree it’s not.
Perhaps steering your child to a more polite way of having the conversation is necessary but we can learn a lot from how children are genuinely intrigued by the differences of others.
Exploring the differences of others is a good thing. When we explore and ask questions, we can come to have a great understanding of each other and we discover what we have in common.
What if, instead of avoiding people with differences we asked questions with the intent of learning something about them?
Differences don't define us.
I always enjoy hearing how kids describe people. It's often very different than how adults describe people. Adults have a tendency to point out things that aren't relevant to the context like race, religion or even sexual orientation. (I mean, really... why do I need to know the sexual orientation of your waiter? Or the "color" of the person that cut you off in traffic? I don't.)
There have been times when I’ve needed a child to give me some more details and all I would get is "the lady with the hair" or the "man wearing pants".
In writing this post, I actually asked my son what his grandfather (a Black man) and his Sunday School teacher (a White man) looked like. His response was, “they look like Chris”. Chris is my nephew whose complexion is somewhere in between in between. My son elaborated by drawing a circle over his own face and saying “they all have a circle like me!”.
So, basically, they all have faces. And most notably… like him.
What if, instead of labeling people by their skin color, religion or anything else we just defined them as people with hair, pants and faces… like us?
Again, this is not to pretend that we don’t notice differences but by focusing on the fact that so-and-so has a different color skin versus so-and-so has a face and hair and pants like me, we have built a divide between us and them.
Will this "simple" view of life fix the world's problems? I wish that it could but it won't. It will however, make your world a better place. And if enough of us change our own immediate world, imagine the global impact we could make.
About the Author
Hi! I'm Inez, the owner and content creator of For the Love of Mom, a website dedicated to motivating women toward greatness in life and motherhood.