This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how they teach their children to embrace and respect the variety of people and cultures that surround us. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Children are born into this world open and ready to learn about everything around them. They learn by studying those around them to be accepting and loving, or hateful and closed minded. Children are not born racist, they are not born homophobic, they are not born to mistrust someone because they have a different faith. However, humans are pack animals, and by nature we will flock to those with whom we share common threads. Similarity can breed familiarity, which makes people comfortable. It is our job as parents to help our children see that there is a common thread that runs through the whole human race, if only we take the time to look for it; and that out differences are not things to be feared, but are beautiful notes that can blend together to create amazing harmonies, and make this world a more interesting place to live.
Studies have shown that just being an open and accepting individual isn't enough*. You have to talk to your children, open and honestly, about those big differences. Race. Sexual preference (though, not the sex part at first!). Religion. It is not enough to not say the bad things, to not disparage, you have to talk about the fact that we are different, and that that is not only okay, but good!
In our family we are doing our best to help Gwen see the beauty in our differences, because it is our firm belief that it is our differences as much as our similarity that make this world an exciting and beautiful place. As she gets older, this conversations will take on more serious tones, but for now we are keeping them light and full of only the positive. We've found books to be a great way to start these conversations.
To discuss how people look, and specifically race, we love the book We're Different, We're the Same.** Gwen loves Sesame Street (we do too!), and specifically Elmo. The show is great for having a diverse group of people, and this book specifically hits on how despite out differences in appearance, we're all people, and we're all wonderful!
To discuss differences in family, and the fact that sometimes a woman and a man can fall in love, and sometimes two women or two men can fall in love, we read And Tango Makes Three, the sweet (and true!) story of two male penguins who fall in love, and build their family with the help of a kind zoo worker. They love each other, and together they raise a penguin family. We also use this as a stepping stone to talk about the other ways that families can look different (lots of children, one child, single parents, children and grandparents, adopted children, etc).
We also use videos to start discussions. To talk about difference religions we enjoy Elmo's World: Happy Holidays, where Elmo learns all about the different holidays that happen while he's getting ready to celebrate Christmas. Its a great stepping off point for the discussion of why people celebrate different holidays, and what the different religions mean.
Of course, these are all just starting points. But sometimes, finding a place to start can be the hardest part. After that, just speak from your heart. Tell your children the truth, that we aren't all the same, but that the world would be a pretty boring place if we were. Tell them in ways that they can understand: the same way its more fun to color with all the colors in the crayon box or have lots of colors of blocks, its more fun when we have different hopes, dreams, and looks that can be woven together into something amazing!
Together we can teach a whole new generation about the beauty in our differences.
Visit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon July 9 with all the carnival links.)
- A gift for my daugther — Amanda, a special education teacher for students with multiple exceptionalities, discusses at My Life in a Nutshell how she will enrich her daughter's life by educating her the amazing gifts her students will bring to the world.
- The Beauty in Our Differences — Meegs at A New Day writes about her discussions with her daughter about how accepting ourselves and those around us, with all our beautiful differences and similarities, makes the world a better place.
- Accepting Acceptance and Tolerating Tolerance — Destany at They Are All of Me examines the origins of and reasons behind present day social conformity.
- Differences — sustainablemum discusses what she feels to be the important skills for embracing diversity in her family home.
- Turning Japanese — Erin Yuki at And Now, for Something Completely Different shares how she teaches her kiddos about Japanese culture, and offers ideas about "semi immersion" language learning.
- Celebrating Diversity at the International House Cottages — Mommy at Playing for Peace discovers the cultures of the world with her family at local cultural festivals
- Learning About Diversity by Honoring Your Child’s Multiple Heritages — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the importance of truly knowing your roots and heritage and how to help children honor their multiple heritages.
- People. PEOPLE! — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is trying to teach her children to use language that reflects respect for others, even when their language doesn't seem to them to be disrespectful.
- Just Call me Clarice Thomas — Lisa at The Squishable Baby knows that learning to understand others produces empathetic children and empathetic families.
- Diversity of Families — Family can be much more then a blood relation. Jana at Jananas on why friends are so important for her little family of three.
- Diverse Thoughts Tamed by Mutual Respect — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work thinks that diversity is indispensable to our vitality, but that all of our many differences require a different sort of perspective, one led by compassion and mutual respect.
- Just Shut Up! — At Old New Legacy, Becky gives a few poignant examples in her life when listening, communication and friendship have helped her become more accepting of diversity.
- The World is our Oyster — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot is thankful for the experiences that an expat lifestyle will provide for herself as well as for her children.
- Children's black & white views (no pun intended … kind of) — Lauren at Hobo Mama wonders how to guide her kids past a childish me vs. them view of the world without shutting down useful conversation.
- Raising White Kids in a Multicultural World — Leanna at All Done Monkey offers her two cents on how to raise white children to be self-confident, contributing members of a colorful world. Unity in diversity, anyone?
- Ramadan Star and Moon Craft — Celebrate Ramadan with this star and moon craft from Stephanie at InCultureParent, made out of recycled materials, including your kid's art!
- Race Matters: Discussing History, Discrimination, and Prejudice with Children — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy discusses how her family deals with the discrimination against others and how she and her husband are raising children who are making a difference.
- The Difference is Me - Living as the Rainbow Generation — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, is used to being the odd-one-out but walking an alternative path with children means digging deeper, answering lots of questions and opening to more love.
- My daughter will never know same-sex marriage is not normal — Doña at Nurtured Mama realizes that the recent Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage will change the way she talks to her daughter about her own past.
- Montessori-Inspired Respect for Diversity — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells about her multicultural family and shares Montessori-inspired ideas for encouraging respect for diversity.
- EveryDay Diversity — Ana at Panda & Ananaso makes diversity a part of everyday living, focusing on raising of compassionate and respectful child.
- Diversity as Part of Life — Even though Laura at Authentic Parenting thought she had diversity covered, she found out that some things are hard to control.
- Inequity and Privilege — Jona is unpacking questions raised by a summit addressing inequity in breastfeeding support at Life, Intertwined.
- 3 Ways to Teach Young Children About Diversity — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama recognizes her family's place of privilege and shares how she is teaching her little ones about diversity in their suburban community.
- Teaching diversity: tales from public school — A former public high school teacher and current public school parent, Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama values living in a diverse community.
- 30 Ideas to Encourage Learning about Diversity While Traveling — Traveling with kids can bring any subject alive. Dionna at Code Name: Mama has come up with a variety of ways you can incorporate diversity education into your family travels (regardless of whether you homeschool). From couch surfing to transformative reading, celebrate diversity on your next trip!
- Diversity, huh? — Jorje of Momma Jorje doesn't do anything BIG to teach about diversity; it's more about the little things.
- Chosen and Loved — From Laura at Pug in the Kitchen: Color doesn't matter. Ethnicity doesn't matter. Love matters.
- The One With The Bright Skin — Stefanie at Very Very Fine tries to recover from a graceless reponse to her son's apparent prejudice.
* Here, and here. Though there was a better article I read ages ago, which I unfortunately can't find now.
** All links are Amazon Affiliate links, which cost nothing more for the reader, but help support this site.