Diversity And Kids - Top 6 Tips For Parents

kids diversity

“Mom, why does she look different?”

This is a question that many of us have had to grapple with as we raise our kids in an increasingly multicultural and multiethnic society. As a person on colour myself, I’ve been on the receiving end of the question and can still remember an incident (one of many) that happened to me as a child.

I was about eight or so, and was leaving a large department store with my mother. Another child, about the same age as me, saw me, turned to her mother, pointed at me and asked “Why is she Black?”

The mother looked mortified, said “SHHHH!!!” and quickly scurried the child out of the store. I was left standing there with my own mother feeling confused and ashamed, though I wasn’t sure why. My mother, thankfully, spoke to me about why people would have questions and that curiosity isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Oftentimes, questions such as this are a starting point for some very important discussions that parents can have with their children.

It’s all about how we as parents handle these types of situations when they occur. Our responses are going to set the stage for how our own children behave in future. “Monkey see, monkey do,” as they say. For this reason, it’s so important to instill not only an understanding of other cultures and ethnicities, but a respect and interest and celebration of them as well.

Living in Toronto, I’ve been very fortunate to be surrounded by an incredible range of these cultures and ethnicities. It’s one of the things I love about the city and appreciate that my children have had the opportunity to be learn about diversity. Unfortunately, not all places are as diverse and there are still situations where children are being faced with being the object of another child’s questioning, just as I was so many years ago.

For parents who are trying to raise children who are more culturally and ethnically aware, regardless of their locale, there are some things that can be done. Following are six tips for parents who want to raise kids who have an appreciation for diversity.

Diversity and Kids - Top 6 Tips For Parents

1) Friends Not Foes - There’s nothing like a good friendship to make a child want to learn more about a person’s culture. Children are naturally curious and are drawn to new people and ideas. Encourage your kids to have relationships with a variety of peers from different backgrounds and ethnicities. The opportunity for learning and understanding as well as making a new pal will be well worth it.

2) Food For Thought - Are you stuck in a Meatloaf Monday or Taco Tuesday treadmill? If so, how about mixing things up a bit and exposing your child to some other food options? Having different foods around the house and serving them for meals is a great way of teaching kids about other cultures. Check out some different recipes from other cultures online or invest in a cookbook that specializes in meals from around the world. Your child will likely love it and it will give you a starting point for discussions about diversity.

3) The Inside Story - Reading is always a great activity for kids and in this case, even more so. Go to your local library with your child and check out some books that highlight other cultures. These can include historical and factual-type books as well as anthologies that combine cultural tales and stories. For smaller kids, help them choose picture books at the library and read cultural stories with them. They’ll appreciate the novelty of the stories and will be more likely to remain interested.

4) Talk the Talk - There’s nothing like immersing oneself in another language to fully understand the nuances of a culture. Of course it’s somewhat different for a child, but getting children interested in speaking a new language is a great first step towards diversity appreciation. Whether it’s through classes at school or taking lessons after school or on weekends, language is a great portal to understanding another culture.

5) Lead by Example - As parents, we have a job to do and one of them is realizing that our children will follow the examples we set. If we convey negative or suspicious attitudes about other cultures and ethnicities, our kids will pick up on these and replicate our behaviour. “Monkey see, monkey do” is real so keep this in mind and remember to convey a positive and open attitude about other cultures, particularly around your children.

6) Culture Club - Fairs, festivals, events - these are all great opportunities to open up your child’s understanding of those from other backgrounds. Wherever possible, attend cultural and ethnic celebrations with your children and expose them to some of the great traditions that so many celebrate. Take your kids to culturally-focused events and immerse them in the customs of others. By doing so, your child will have a greater appreciation for others and will learn something in the process as well.

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To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here.

How do you teach your child about diversity and other cultures? What advice do you have for other parents who want to expose their children to other cultures and ethnicities? Leave me your thoughts in the comments below!


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  1. The Funster says

    Another great write up! What we’ve done in the past especially if our daughter has made a friend from a completely different culture, is to invite both her friend and her parents over for dinner or lunch. We get to know the parents and also at the same time learn a little bit about where they’re from and their culture. We also have many friends from multiple counties and cultures as well. We really strive to teach our children that it’s not the culture, color of their skin, etc. that we look at in people but their character, integrity, and so forth. Anyway, great post!

    1. Samantha says

      What a great way of learning about another’s culture! I love the idea of having the parents over as well as having the kids connect. By doing this, it’s a holistic learning experience with everyone on board, sharing and interacting. More parents should follow your lead. Thanks for the tip!

  2. [email protected] says

    Samantha, great post!

    I agree with you 10,000% when you said that if we convey negative attitudes about other cultures, our kids will pick it up. It all starts with us the parents. This is how racism continues to exist in our society. It is a learned behaviour being passed on from one generation to the next.

    My kids are not quite school age yet, but my oldest will be starting this september and I’m SURE that I will eventually have to talk about this. She is of mixed race and I know it will be an issue at some point in her life.

    But I honestly believe that you don’t treat people different because of the colour of their skin. You treat them as human beings, as we all are…and treat them with the same respect that you would expect to be treated with.

    Another good way to expose your kids to different cultures is to travel with them to different places in the world. Let them see first hand other cultures, taste different food and see how other people live. If you can’t afford to do that..the internet has made our world VERY small. Hop online…use Google Earth….go on YouTube, etc…and you can see just about any country and see images of people, the land and you can learn about the culture as well. Kids love computers, so this is a great way to engage them and have it be educational at the same time.

  3. Samantha says

    Ryan - so true! Travel is a great way to expose children to other cultures and nationalities. If it’s at all possible, I definitely think that it’s something parents should do with their kids.

    We convey our attitudes not only by what we say, but by our actions, and our children are a lot more perceptive than we often give them credit for. It’s so important that we pass on an attitude of openness, acceptance and interest in others because doing so will help our children become open and accepting as well.

    Thanks for your comment!