Teaching children to embrace diversity
2020-10-08 | By Tasmaine Coleman from Nord Anglia Education
For many parents, talking with children about the realities of race, diversity, equity, and inclusion is a disturbing prospect. These conversations are rarely easy; it is difficult to delicately address these topics while simultaneously protecting a child’s innocence.
Where do I start? How far should the conversation go? Is it too much for them to handle? The truth is that oftentimes our children are not naïve to the current realities of our world and by ignoring the systemic racism around them and altogether avoiding the conversations, we run the risk of teaching them to overlook and accept injustices. This can perpetuate the behaviours that have led to the misguided belief that their lives matter more or less than others.
The global pandemic has added “homeschool teacher” to the list of hats that parents wear and has provided an (additional) opportunity to address the elephant in the room. While teaching children to be compassionate, tolerant, and empathetic is not the complete antidote to racism, it is a start. We have a collective responsibility to teach tolerance, kindness and respect, and parents can help their children value and appreciate diversity in everyday experiences.
It will take time and a concerted effort to undo learnt behaviours and unconscious biases. Below are three ideas to jumpstart the conversation:
- Speak openly and embrace curiosity: Be open to curiosity and answer your children’s questions about differences among people. An honest conversation about their observations can pave the way for your children to feel more comfortable to ask questions about race and diversity.
- Lead by example: Action speaks louder than words, and we have to be mindful of both our verbal and non-verbal expressions. Be mindful of how you treat and talk about others, as this can cause your children to develop generalised perceptions and stereotypes.
- Challenge intolerance: If your child says or does something indicating bias or prejudice, don’t meet the action with silence. Challenge intolerance, and explain why it is unacceptable.
UNICEF has a number of resources, including a guide on how to start the important conversation which is available on this website
At NAIS Rotterdam, we celebrate diversity at our school by building respect towards all people into our curriculum. From three years old, our students enjoy a rich and diverse learning environment with staff and students of more than 40 nationalities. If you would like to learn more, you can contact the Admissions Team on firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is adapted from a blog written by Tasmaine Coleman from Nord Anglia Education.