We want children to feel free to reach for their dreams and accomplish to their highest potential; we want them to feel safe, loved, included and to live in a society free from the pain of bias, discrimination, rejection, or exclusion. However, we live in a world where forms of discrimination, uncertainty, and cultural discomfort can leave deep scars, clip wings of hope, and affect feelings of self-worth and confidence.
Parents and caregivers willing to authentically talk about diversity and foster a positive sense of self in their children have the power to affirm the rich diversity of our communities and impact the beliefs and values of their children in a way that allows connection, understanding, and tolerance.
Here are seven ways that can help us develop diversity and acceptance at home.
- Develop self-knowledge and understanding of our adult beliefs and value systems.
Often, what we consider unacceptable, or offensive is something that goes against our personal beliefs and values. Accepting ourselves, allowing for our own vulnerability, and understanding our biases without reactions and defensiveness is the first step in orienting ourselves to being authentic, modeling understanding of diversity, and allowing for acceptance.
- Model culturally responsive behavior and responsibility.
Modeling desired behavior is the most important thing you can do to raise socially tolerant and kind individuals. Be present, monitor language, conversations, reactions, and openly discuss issues in a respectful way that affirms other people’s cultural identities. Model behaviors and attitudes you want children to develop.
- Teach your children about their own culture and how they differ from others.
When children understand their ancestry and are grounded in their confidence, they are open to learning and accepting others. Developing communities of respect, acceptance, curiosity, and belonging becomes easier.
- Create situations where children interact and make friends with people who are different from them. Children learn best from their experiences.
- Engage children in conversations that promote critical thinking and answer their questions and comments about differences; children can interpret your silence to mean that it’s not acceptable to talk about a topic.
- When responding to a child, consider their age and development; children want to know how situations affect their lives and identities. Their questions and comments are a way to gather information and usually do not stem from bias or prejudice.
- Expose children to role models from both their own culture and those from others.
Children need to see their culture represented in all areas and levels of society
There are endless ways to teach, support, and promote diversity and acceptance at home, but the most powerful way is to be present and connected with your child. Being a human that authentically practices the best of our humanity is the most significant way to support the growth and development of our children.
Marina Blalock, AMFT