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How to Teach Kids to Embrace Diversity

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The world is full of a variety of people, of all types of differences in ability, beliefs, race, and other forms of diversity. People look different and behave differently, but we are all still human. It’s important to teach kids to embrace diversity at a young age. Meeting differences with kindness makes the world better for all of us.

How to teach kids to embrace diversity

Teaching kids about kindness is an important part of running a home daycare. We have the responsibility to turn out good citizens is a huge part of social wellness and treating those with differences well is part of that. We have to prepare them to defend others and themselves and to make sure there is social justice for all. Differences such as autism or neurodiversity as well as race and social status are not something to judge by.

Even if people from marginalized groups have a safe space to go home to, the outside world reminds them on a daily basis that their diversity is not appreciated. Teaching children to embrace diversity and lead with compassion will help them grow into individuals who seek to build each other up, not knock down anyone who’s different just because they’re different.

Exemplify acceptance yourself

Kids watch what adults do and learn how to behave based on how the people around them behave. Autistic, and similarly neurodivergent, children may struggle to recognize a look of disgust or disapproval, but non-autistic children develop the ability to recognize facial expressions between 7-11 years old.

Before you can teach children to accept people and behaviors that are different from theirs, you need the ability to approach situations with an accepting, empathetic mind.

a child's hands playing with different puzzle games

Challenge normalcy

Per dictionary.com, “normal” means

  • conforming to a standard; the usual, typical, or expected (adjective)
  • the usual, average, or typical state or condition (noun)

What is considered normal is only “normal” in the first place because the majority population decided it was normal. Normal doesn’t make something automatically right, or better, than the alternative.

At first, challenging normalcy feels uncomfortable. You’re going outside the margins, unlearning traditions, and teaching yourself how to be kinder to the people who are different from you. But learning to teach kids to embrace diversity can help you learn to embrace it too. We all have bad habits to unlearn.

When you hear someone say, “That’s not normal,” ask why. For example, a person may tell another person that pouring cereal into the bowl before the milk isn’t normal because they pour milk into the bowl first. But just because you are used to things being done a certain way doesn’t mean that’s the only right way. It’s okay to go against the flow

Questions to ask about “normal”:

  • Why is it not normal?
  • Is it not normal because I don’t do it?
  • Is it not normal because I find it weird?
  • Why do I find it weird?
  • Why is my point of view the default/normal?

Example scenarios

  • Eating the same lunch every day vs. eating a different lunch every day
  • Listening to the same song on repeat vs. listening to different songs
  • Eating dessert before dinner vs. eating dinner before dessert
  • Non-speaking individuals vs. speaking individuals
  • Hearing vs. hard of hearing vs. deaf
  • Abled vs. disabled
  • Repetitive movements (stimming) vs. not stimming
different children doing diverse activities

Read books that celebrate differences

Children who are read to become smarter than those who are not, per scientific research. Humans are wired for stories, as proven by the millions of stories in the world. Books, word-of-mouth, television, and film. Kids naturally relate stories to their life, even when adults don’t see the relation.

Choosing to read diverse books, featuring people from different backgrounds and abilities, will do two main things:

  1. Give kids from marginalized groups a chance to see themselves in the media so they don’t grow up feeling completely alone.
  2. Educate kids who see themselves everywhere that people who don’t look, think and act like them also exist, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Embrace your own differences

The only way to desensitize differences for children, so kids learn to embrace diversity, is to submerge them in it. Instead of show-and-tell at school or daycare, consider choosing a theme kids like, such as a device that helps them function in everyday life or a dance from their culture. Find safe ways to embrace different cuisines, regardless of food allergies, so everyone can try different things.

Above all, encourage them to ask one another questions respectfully, and nurture their curiosity by finding answers. It’s not up to marginalized individuals to teach other people why their life is just important or why something is offensive. They may also feel uncomfortable answering every question themselves, even in accepting environments.

It’s important to teach all children acceptance of all kinds of people and to teach kids to embrace diversity and celebrate it.

For more ideas on raising kind kids, check these out:

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