My son has reached the age where I feel it is time to talk to him about diversity. I believe that it is my job as a parent to talk to him about our differences and explain how to politely (and quietly) ask me if he has questions about those differences. It is also my job to teach him how to see beyond these differences to find the similarities and strengths in others. Teaching Kids about Diversity isn’t just a one lesson event, it is a continuous dialog.
As a parent, I know that diversity exists in the color of our skin, our body size, our cultural backgrounds, our economics, the way we dress, our personal preferences, our strengths and our individual challenges.
My four year old is now old enough to notice and point out these differences loudly in public places, asking at the top of his lungs, “Why is does that man have a big brace on his leg?” “Why does she have a dog in the airport?”
He is curious about the world and is more aware of his surroundings.
Teaching Kids about Diversity
My number one advice is to talk to your children and model kindness towards others – always.
Use books as a starting point for teaching kids about diversity
Amazon shopping tip – if you click on a favorite book, they will show you a section of Frequently Bought Together books AND another with books customers also bought. Exploring these two sections are great ways to find new books that are similar to the one you already love! Here’s our top diversity books.
Use personal experiences as a starting point for teaching kids about diversity
When my daughter was two, she wore glasses and a patch over her eye, I received many mortifying, rude comments about her different appearance that often left me in tears.
Parents and children SHOULD NOT be ridiculed about their differences. “She is too little for glasses.” “Why is she wearing a patch?” “Is her eye missing?” are just a few of the comments we received on a daily basis.
In our family, we have a firm stance that diversity or differences in others is never an acceptable reason for making others feel bad, teasing or ridiculing others. Instead, I believe parents and teachers should model appropriate behaviors for our children and learn about things we don’t know about before making judgments.
We must teach our children to see others for the things that make them special, like being kind and compassionate.
In a nutshell, what we do to teach our kids about diversity
- I encourage my children not to label an individual by one attribute. What you can see from the outside is not a true measurement of a person’s characteristics.
- If they have questions about someone they see, they are allowed to privately whisper their questions to me. Depending on the situation, I will answer them. Last week, a blind man walked by us on the sidewalk, I told the children to make sure they were on the right side, just as I do with all the people we pass. They later asked me how he was able to navigate the path and we TALKED about the use of other senses.
- I try to provide opportunities for my children to interact with a variety of people.
- We talk about others’ differences in the privacy of our own home or car. In regards to severe vision loss, I have explained that all people are different and this is just one difference. We call our eyes, “our windows to the world,” and when talking about blindness, I have explained that everyone’s windows are different. Some people have glasses to help reflect the light to the right part of their eyes (yes, we talk like this with our kids) and sometimes glasses just are not helpful enough and some people cannot see. We’ve had conversations about children in places not being able to afford school and about children in our own community who are hungry.
- Read books with diverse characters.
- Be kind to others and make new friends.
You may also find these activities helpful for exploring diversity in our world…