Teaching your kids about diversity | PostIndependent.com

Teaching your kids about diversity

Answers from YouthZone
Julie Martin

Stand up, raise your hand and/or make a mental note if you:

1. wear glasses

2. have been bullied

3. are a parent

4. have dealt with substance abuse in your family

5. identify as a person of color

6. are Christian

7. consider yourself overweight

8. have been unemployed

9. have a tattoo or piercing

10. think you need more money

11. aren’t religious or spiritual

12. like to dance

13. have ever been excluded based on your physical characteristics, perceived abilities and/or perceived sexual orientation.

14. are living in a culture that is comfortable and familiar to your own.

Consider the following: What did you feel and think when you answered “yes”? What about when you answered “no”? Did you feel a part of a group? Excluded? Wanting to be or not wanting to be a part of that group? Do you feel more similar or different from the people around you? How do you include and exclude others from your group?

Research shows that our perceptions and beliefs lead us to expectations about others. These expectations in return influence our behavior and actually affect the behavior of those around us. For this reason, we need to consider our feelings and reactions about people that are different and similar to us.

Diversity means different or varied. The United States is made up of people from diverse races, cultures, and places. When we fail to recognize diversity and prejudge others without sufficient knowledge, this is considered prejudice. Often these prejudgments are stereotypes, which is an oversimplified generalization about a person or group of people without regard or understanding of individual differences. If we act based on our prejudice, this is considered discrimination.

In order to celebrate our diversities and teach our children to be inclusive, it is important that we expand our own understanding and appreciation of others and share this with our kids. This learning begins at home and here are a few ideas to share with your children to help you get started:

1. Give others the benefit of the doubt ” people who treat others positively are more likely to get a positive response.

2. Be fair, respectful and kind ” use the golden rule and share it with your kids.

3. Be aware of your own prejudices ” by the things we say and do we are teaching others about our values. Make sure it is a value you want to teach.

4. Talk about people in terms of their individual behaviors and uniqueness. Avoid talking about people in terms of skin color, race, or descriptive terms that could be derogatory.

5. Emphasize similarities instead of differences, strengths instead of perceived weaknesses.

6. Encourage your child to play with classmates that are different.

7. Cultivate positive relationships with other adults that are different from you.

8. Plan family outings to celebrations of other cultures (like Festival Las Americas), visit art exhibits of other cultures, of wartime heroes, watch a program on television.

9. Acquaint your children with their own family history.

10. Find something special about each child, including your own.

Julie Martin is the Pals Program Director at YouthZone.Check out these Web sites for more activities for families, schools and communities: http://www.adl.org and http://www.tolerance.org.


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