As parents, we may all have different philosophies and personal beliefs that set us apart from other parents. But at the end of the day, many of our goals are the same. We just want to raise our kids in ways that make them feel protected and loved. We want to help shape them into wonderful, kind, intelligent and compassionate people who contribute to this world in positive ways.
But in today’s fast paced, quickly changing world, there is quite a lot to take on. Nowadays, with the advent of the internet and the easy access kids have to tablets, phones, and other devices, it can be easy to get caught up in spreading mean-spirited energy, insults, judgement and other negative sentiments. It can be easy to look at people who look, think, talk and act different than you and be insensitive, mean, fearful or hostile.
Helping your kids understand that we live in a world made of different cultures, religions and ethnicities and that they need to be conscious and considerate of other people’s experiences is the basis of shaping a responsible, globally conscious adult. Here are some ways to help teach your children about kindness, diversity and tolerance.
Be The Example
Before you can start examining your child’s behavior and pointing out their shortcomings, you have to start with the source: you! You are their parent and their very first example of how to be a human in this life, so it’s only natural that you hold yourself accountable. Kids listen to what you say, but what you actually DO speaks much louder than words, especially if the two don’t align. Be sure you are practicing what you preach and that you are leading by example in all of your teachings. Let your child see you speak kindly and compassionately to others. Show them what it’s like to take others’ feelings into consideration, even when they’re different from your own.
Be Real, Open and Honest
Establish a climate of open communication with your child. Let them know that no question is wrong and that they can come to you for answers without any judgement. Be honest in your answers. Your kids are likely going to hear or see things from others or from certain forms of media that you didn’t anticipate, so if they come to you asking about a topic you were hoping they wouldn’t come across, don’t sugarcoat or lie about it. Answer honestly and responsibly so that they are getting the information from a source you trust and not some other way. Also, address diversity topics head-on. Statements like “We don’t see color” or “We’re all one, united race,” attempt to ignore differences and pretend they’re not real. Instead, encourage them to embrace differences and appreciate each person for his or her individuality and unique way of existing.
Make Sure your Kids are Exposed to People From Other Backgrounds
It can be easy to fall back and only keep your kids around people of your own similar ethnic background, religious background and socio-economic status. But this can create a sheltered experience for your child in which he or she only understands their own reality and way of life. This can easily lead them to be insensitive, unprepared, ignorant and unaware.
If you have them participate in activities or peer groups that include a wide range of people from different backgrounds, they’ll start to have their own life experiences with people early in life. They’ll be able to interact with people who have life experiences and beliefs different from their own. Doing these things will help them learn to be more compassionate with the feelings of others.