Regardless of one’s ethnic or sexual identity, talking with children about diversity can be challenging and even a little frightening. Participants in professional development training always reference fear of what to say, fear of how to say it, and fear of saying something wrong as reasons they often avoid these discussions. Although there is a wealth of valuable information to assist parents with diversity education of their young children, there are no downloadable templates to ensure your discussions will always be successful. Your own commitment and efforts to understand the importance of diversity will aid in your ability to teach about diversity.
Diversity conversations are easier than most people think. Race is only one aspect of diversity. Approach a discussion about race in the context of learning about one’s own uniqueness and what makes us different and similar to the people around us; this can be an awesome lesson for young children. These conversations will help children feel socially and emotionally secure as they grow and learn to live in a diverse society.
Activities centered around diversity can help teach young children to respect and celebrate the differences in all people. Learning about diverse cultures presents new experiences for children. It also helps them understand that, despite differences in how we look, dress, eat, or celebrate, we are all humans. The following simple suggestions can help parents prepare for and facilitate discussions about diversity with young children:
Establish your purpose for discussing diversity with child(ren). What do you want your children to learn?
Conduct a personal self-assessment to identify your past and present experiences that could influence your conversation with your child. Honesty with yourself is important.
Ask your child to identify differences and similarities using their friends, neighbors, church members, and/or relatives. Record their responses on paper. This reference can help guide future discussions and activities. It also helps children feel heard and included in the conversation.
Review family, travel, vacation, and community event pictures as opportunities to point out differences and similarities.
Drive through your community and point out urban, rural, an inner-city neighborhoods so children can see the differences and similarities.
Invite your child to participate with you on a Zoom call with friends, neighbors, or co-workers. Ask the people on the call to share where they were born, what foods they like, what activities they do in their home, what they have on the walls of their home, what type of music they listen to, etc.