Teaching Your Child to Celebrate Diversity
From the Saint John’s Prep School Prep Stories Blog:
Throughout the last year, issues of equality and social justice have come to the forefront. These events and discussions opened a broader door for all of us to see the challenges and hear the voices of those most affected by bias and injustice. They also underscore the critical need to celebrate diversity in all its forms.
As a world school whose students and curriculum reflect traditions from across the globe, Saint John’s Prep believes that an exceptional education requires an understanding and appreciation of many perspectives and experiences. As called by Saint Benedict, we welcome all as Christ, embracing the unique identity and talents of every student we enroll.
As parents, we’re also called to be intentional about teaching our children to accept and celebrate people from every ethnicity, race, religion, and sexual orientation. With our support and guidance, children will see these differences as strengths and vital to the success of our global communities.
We’ve compiled a list of helpful resources and activities that can serve as starting points in your efforts to create an environment of openness and acceptance.
Read educational materials about diversity and inclusion, together.
One of the best ways for you and your child to learn about and celebrate diversity is to expose your family to different voices and stories. Here’s a list of books to read with your child that explore issues of diversity from age two to young adult.
Celebrate similarities and differences.
Children are naturally curious and observant. They ask questions and openly explore situations and topics that affect their world. This curiosity lends itself well to conversations about similarities and differences.
Ask children to identify differences they observe in their classmates, friends or neighbors. These differences could be physical and cultural, or they could involve different family types, viewpoints, abilities, etc. As you discuss these differences, acknowledge how each person is a unique expression of God, and yet we are all a part of one human family. Though we may appear to be different in some ways, we all share the same human needs to express ourselves, to grow, to connect, to be heard and to be loved.
Take action: Research different ethnic celebrations that take place in your community. Make plans to attend and learn more about a different culture. Plan a meal that’s typical for that region. Ask children what differences and similarities they observe during the experience.
Be open about discrimination and stereotypes.
Children can develop biased viewpoints at a young age. That’s why it’s important to help our children understand that stereotypes and discrimination exist even though they may not experience them…and that these hurtful attitudes and practices are wrong.
First explain to your child that many people have been treated unfairly simply because of their ethnicity, the color of their skin, the way they talk and even their gender. Let your child know that stereotyping people this way is unfair and doesn’t align with the golden rule, which calls us to treat others as we would like to be treated. Educate your child about the different ways discrimination has affected large groups of people throughout history.
Next, talk openly and honestly with your child about their own biases. Ask them if they ever felt differently about someone because of the way the person looked, dressed or talked. Let them know that it’s normal to observe differences and experience moments of bias, but it’s important to recognize these feelings and work toward dismantling them through self-reflection and education.
Take action: Find topics and news stories that bring forth themes of discrimination and bias and discuss them with your child. Ask your child how they would feel if they were the one who was treated unfairly. Explore what we can do to be allies of those discriminated against and become advocates for change.
Actions speak louder than words. One of the most important ways to address diversity with your child is to model inclusive behavior. Children and teens often imitate what they see and hear, so it’s important that adults set clear expectations and live out those expectations themselves.
Teach your child the importance of using kind language and actions. Remind them that everyone deserves to feel loved, accepted and valued. Explain that every person has a role to play in creating a more positive and inclusive world. The changes we want to see happen in our community begin within each one of us in our daily interactions with others.
Take action: Ask your child if they’ve ever been hurt or treated unkindly by others. Discuss what happened and how another person’s words or actions impacted their feelings. Explain how we’re responsible for our actions and how being unkind is a choice that impacts others.
Let your child know it’s ok to ask questions.
When teaching your child about diversity and inclusion, many questions may come up along the way. Children should know that it’s appropriate to ask questions as they work through their understanding of diversity. Assure your child that it’s okay to verbalize their curiosities and that the best way to address any topic we don’t understand is to have an honest conversation with people we trust.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for support.
While everyone wants to be a positive role model for their child, no one is expected to have all of the answers. That’s why it’s important to surround ourselves with support, resources and an extended community of change makers.
At Saint John’s Prep, we strive to be that community for our families. Our Benedictine values call us to see the Divine presence in everyone as we promote community, hospitality, justice, respect and understanding. We know that instilling these values in our students will have a ripple effect on our greater communities.
For more information on how a Saint John’s Prep Catholic education celebrates diversity and can prepare your child for a global world, contact our admission team.