Teaching Children To Understand And Celebrate Diversity
As a youth, you may remember being taught that Canada was a “mosaic” versus a “melting pot” like our southern neighbours in the United States.
The concept of being a cultural mosaic is certainly something to be celebrated. Being known for our diverse population, Canadians are lucky to get exposure to a rich variety of cultures through our friends, neighbours, colleagues and even strangers.
This exposure starts young for children who enter an early childcare learning environment. Their new friends come from all walks of life, and it can be an exciting but confusing concept to grasp. The exposure is inevitable, and as their role models, it is up to us as parents and teachers to help them understand and celebrate the fact that diversity is a strength.
Why is it so important for children to understand this at such a young age?
For starters, we are instilling in them the value of tolerance; a value that is much needed in the global climate we are experiencing today. With tolerance comes patience, love and acceptance, all virtues we strive for our children to adapt and carry into adulthood.
Celebrating each individual child’s cultural identity also helps to boost their self-confidence. In the classroom, a shy child may feel even more isolated by their perceived “differences,” whether it be their clothing, the kind of food they have for snacks, even down to the sticker characters that they may have on their bins. By encouraging open discussion and sharing, these negative “differences” become positive, unique attributes and the children learn to be proud of who they are and where they come from.
How can you help your children understand and celebrate diversity in others and themselves?
As with almost every aspect of raising children, communication is paramount. Let your children know that it is okay to ask questions, albeit in a sensitive and appropriate manner. This way, the child’s questions are met with correct answers rather than incorrect assumptions.
The subject of stereotypes and biases may seem like one that is too mature, but in reality, the roots of biased viewpoints form in a child’s early years. As you teach your children that each individual’s differences are beautiful and unique, point out that there are people who view these differences as negative attributes, and may treat others badly because of them. It is important to help them distinguish that this viewpoint is unfair, and that this is not how people should be treating one another.
And most importantly, set an example by expressing positive interest in other cultures. It’s the simple things – like making note of the different way another culture celebrates the New Year, and how beautiful it is even though it is not how your family celebrates – that resonate with young children. These positive words and reactions will stick with them and will resurface in other aspects of their lives.
At Kids U, we strongly believe in “starting them young,” whether it be setting them on the path of lifelong learning or on the path to respect, acceptance and tolerance. With guidance from us as the role models in their lives, our children can enjoy their early years supporting each other to feel loved, accepted and proud of who they are.