In today’s society, children have many opportunities to explore similarities and differences of people from various ethnicities, religions, cultures, genders, intellect and physical abilities, among other attributes that make us each unique. However, are we doing enough? With the current demonstrations around the world, it is a great time to further teach children about acceptance and how to respect and celebrate our wonderful differences - something I focused on in this week’s Prep school assembly.
One of the greatest things about young children is their curiosity and innate capacity to have an open mind. Children are constantly observing and asking questions about the world around them.
So, what do we do when a child asks us a question we may not know how to answer? Many times our initial reaction may be to quiet our child down. It is important to remember that these observations and questions from our children are developmentally appropriate and should be valued and used as a teachable moment.
it is important to explore and consider the many ways that we can help children understand differences, and teach them about acceptance and appreciating what makes others and ourselves unique. Below are five areas that lay the foundation for us to teach our children to be kind, compassionate, and welcoming individuals.
- Modelling - Children look to their teachers and parents as a model for how to act in unfamiliar situations. They will mirror the values and attitudes of those they love and look up to.
- Be Honest - Answer children’s questions about differences openly and honestly. This teaches children that it is acceptable to notice and discuss differences as long as it is done with respect.
- Family Ties - It is important to acknowledge and respect differences within your own family as well. Identify the strengths of every member and discuss their varying interests and abilities. What makes each of you unique and special?
- Monitor Media - The media can be a powerful source of perpetuating untrue and unfair stereotypes. Be thoughtful about the television shows, books, and games you allow your child to view or play.
- Build Self-Esteem - Children who are valued and respected, ultimately feel better about themselves. These children are more likely to interact with others using the Golden Rule of “treat others as you would want to be treated.” Praise them for making positive choices that demonstrate compassion and empathy.
It is our job as parents and teachers to teach children to be open-minded and respectful, but most importantly, celebratory of the differences that exist among people within and outside of our community. Recent events have certainly given us, as a school community, a strong reminder to think about our curriculum-what we teach for example, in History or Literature-time to honestly reflect and consider. As ever, I would be welcome to hear anyone’s thoughts on this incredibly important issue.