The last couple of weeks have found us having more conversations with our 7-year-old about what being diversity aware means. We have discussed what has happened in our nation over the last few months as well as what is currently happening in our city and state. This was not our first conversation about diversity. It has been an ongoing theme in our household since he was born. We have the same conversations with our 4-year-old daughter as well.
Diversity is important to us as we are a multicultural family. But the conversations over the last couple of weeks have taken a different tone, a more urgent tone. We have had some deeper conversations about recognizing and appreciating diversity. Our language has changed, too. More clarity has entered the conversation to ensure that our son understands what words like racism, diversity, and prejudice mean.
So how can we help our children become more aware of the diversity around them? We, as parents, play an invaluable role in teaching our children how to respect and appreciate differences. Here are some of the ways we have taught diversity to our kids.
1. Acknowledge Differences
We are all unique. We represent different cultures and ethnicities. There is beauty in our differences and we should celebrate them. This makes the world a more interesting place, it would be kind of boring if we all were just alike. One thing you can always count on with kids is that they will ask questions. Sometimes they ask the hard questions. When our children ask why someone has a different color skin, different hair, or speaks a different language, we need to take the opportunity to discuss the visible differences that we have. Reinforce that regardless of the color of one’s skin or the language they speak, every person has equal value.
2. Model Diversity
If we want to teach our kids about diversity, we need to make sure our circle of friends is diverse. Diversity comes in many forms—ethnicity, culture, and socioeconomic are just a few examples. I’ll never forget the last Christmas we lived in South Florida. My son was two and we had a group of friends over to celebrate. These were people we worked with and did life with. The group makeup was myself, my Latin wife, a Jamaican, a Haitian, a black friend from Florida, and our friends who are white. This was a unique blend of cultures and these were all people that our son had the opportunity to spend time with during his first two years of life. I share this to say that we need to surround ourselves with diversity so our kids see how important it really is.
3. Introduce Diversity
One of my favorite books to read to my daughter is Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Mendez. Why? Because this book is a conversation between a young girl and her grandpa about why she looks different than her friends. Children’s books offer a vast array of diversity. Take a look at what you have in your child’s library and see if there are books that represent people of different races and cultures. You can find some ideas by clicking here. Another fun way to learn more about diversity is to attend culture festivals in your area. These are fun, interactive events that introduce a variety of cultures… and great food is a bonus. Also, look at the children’s movies that you watch with your kids. Point out the differences in the ethnicities of the characters and have a conversation about who those characters represent.
4. Teach Empathy
What does it mean to have empathy? It means that we can sense and understand the feelings of others and share in those feelings. Many of us have heard the saying “Don’t judge a person until you walk a mile in their shoes.” We may not be able to fully identify with someone else’s reality, but we can choose to share their feelings. Jimmy Rollins explains it this way: “Do we have the capacity to love someone else’s reality that is not our own?” As parents, we can have conversations with our children to help them understand what it means to identify with the feelings of another and walk alongside them. We can help our children identify their own feelings and label those emotions. This will give them the tools to have a conversation about the emotions of others and how we can walk alongside someone who is different than us.
5. Encourage Conversation
Helping your child become diversity aware is not a one-time discussion. This is an ongoing conversation that will last for years. Take every opportunity to help your child continually learn about diversity. Encourage them to ask questions as well. Kids are curious—they want to constantly know more. I can attest that my kids never stop asking questions. We can be intentional about creating an environment that promotes curiosity and learning.
6. Take A Stand
If we have done all these things, then we need to help our kids understand when and how to take a stand. If my son has a schoolmate who is bullied because of their race or culture, we have taught him to take a stand for them. Sometimes taking a stand is as simple as including people of different ethnicities. Ask your child what their friend group looks like. Look for ways that they can include people who look different than them into their group. Taking a stand can be as simple as showing kindness, compassion, and love. And when your child does take a stand, affirm and celebrate them. This will encourage them to continue.
Helping your child become diversity aware is a marathon, not a sprint. Stay in the race and help our kids continue to change the world.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/photo-of-two-girls-playing-with-stuffed-animals-3662839-scaled-e1596224741540.jpg274499Mitchell Quallshttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngMitchell Qualls2020-06-11 10:40:182022-04-22 12:31:346 Things You Can Do to Help Your Child Be Diversity Aware
Joe Bradford grew up without a father and lived in poverty. He was one of a few black students at a predominantly white school. As a result of a computer hacking crime, he went from standout college student to prison inmate fighting to stay alive.
After serving time at a maximum-security prison, Joe was diagnosed with severe kidney disease that left him permanently disabled. Unable to make a living, he moved into public housing, where the fatherless and oppressed neighborhood children won his heart.
Today, “Papa Joe” leads a diverse team of volunteers, offering aid and the message of hope to inner-city children and families in seven at-risk communities in the Nashville area through Elijah’s Heart.
“I heard the story of Joe’s life and thought to myself, ‘This story needs to be told and it would make a great movie,’” says Darren Moorman, co-producer of the movie Unconditional.
“We have all either been in a place of intense pain, are in a place of intense pain or we know someone who is in that place,” Moorman says. “No matter how dark your circumstances are, when you have the opportunity to help others, it makes you feel better even if your circumstances don’t immediately change.”
Unconditional, starring Michael Ealy, chronicles the life of a celebrated children’s author and illustrator named Sam.
Happily married, she lives with her husband on a ranch where she keeps her beloved horse.
Sam’s storybook life comes to a devastating end when her husband dies from a senseless act of violence. She loses her faith and her will to live. Grief-stricken, Sam plans to take her own life. However, a death-defying encounter with two children thwarts her plan and leads to a reunion with Joe Bradford, “Papa Joe,” her oldest friend.
This reunion sends Sam on a journey of reconciliation, second chances, forgiveness, sacrifice and the true meaning of unconditional love. Over time, she finds her will to live returning as she witnesses Papa Joe’s selfless dedication to Nashville’s forgotten children.
Just when you think you know what is coming next in the movie, the plot takes an unexpected twist that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat. Oh, and don’t forget the Kleenex.
“The film’s intent is not merely to entertain, but to inspire viewers to unite and serve in their own communities,” Moorman says. “We hope that after seeing this movie, people will realize that we all can do something to help others, especially the at-risk, fatherless children.”
This film shows how one person’s life can have a truly profound effect on the world around him and spark hope for others.
One person can make a difference for good. So can you.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/brooke-cagle-Nm70URdtf3c-unsplash.jpg8531280Julie Baumgardnerhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJulie Baumgardner2018-05-15 00:00:002020-11-06 13:53:25Serving Makes a Difference