Embracing diversity means practising tolerance and accepting differences in others. Teaching children to be tolerant and accepting difference starts at home. But can we help our kids to become responsible, caring and tolerant?
We all want to raise broad-minded children, who are open to new experiences, who do not prejudge, discriminate or impose their opinions on others, who listen, help and care. We want them to develop into responsible adults, to be caring and tolerant. To enable them to become role models themselves later on, kids need to be shown in a loving way how they do things correctly, how to deal with failure and how to interact with others. And here is where parents and teachers come in. We are the ultimate role model for our children. We need to lead the way.
As our children have been exposed to various cultures from an early age, we know from experience that children react to differences early on. Children realise that there are different ways how people look, how they act or how they communicate with each other. Social interaction has an tremendous influence on young minds, as kids learn by imitating actions and behaviour. If children get exposed to various cultures and languages early on, they develop a wider set of cultural insights and cultural cues as well.
We all know that family
traditions, cultural and religious rituals influence the young minds. Children need to learn from an early age to not prejudge others, to tolerate difference and show respect for others and for themselves. Similarities with others have to be recognized and differences in appearance or behaviour, beliefs and social backgrounds have to be openly discussed with your child from an early age.
Tolerance and acceptance of diversity have to be lived daily at home to become a normal routine for children. Exposure to diverse situations, people and surroundings offer valuable input. Different intellectual and physical abilities, different racial, religious and sexual orientation needs to be noticed or encountered and discussed, so stigma and stereotypes do not play a role in forming your child's viewpoints.
As young children are influenced mainly by their parents and guardians, these and other influencers such as TV shows or computer games, play a vital role as they shape the children’s world view. At school-going age, children usually become more aware of economic differences and realise that the status and attitude of another person is often displayed also in clothing, available toys and possessions or in a different lifestyle. Then children start to question many of the family's routines and will be also influenced by others, who might have other social backgrounds, faiths and beliefs.
Make sure to embrace difference by teaching or learning with your children about the various cultural and religious traditions and explore and discuss preferences. Be open to new experiences, so your child will become more accepting and tolerant as well.
Recommended Reading on 'Embracing Diversity'
Useful Websites to explore
Regina Gräff is the founder and editor of ExpatCapeTown.com and Kids-World-Travel-Guide.com and co-author of the 'Living in South Africa' handbook. Born and raised in Germany, she has a degree (MA phil) in languages and intercultural communication. Regina is a serial expat and has worked as a teacher and educational consultant in various countries including the USA, Australia, Singapore and the UK. Since 2005, she lives with her family in Cape Town/South Africa.
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