August 20, 2017

Talking to Your Child About Diversity

My eldest daughter, Gabi, started kindergarten at our neighborhood school this fall. In her class are single-parent families, a girl adopted from China, another from Africa, and a two-mommy family, white, Hispanic and black children, and every combination of the three. Moms drop off their kindergartners in designer suits, laptop bags in hand, next to pony-tailed, tattooed dads getting off the night shift. It’s a microcosm of our neighborhood. Gabi notices some of these differences and jumps ahead to the things that are important to her, such as who likes Hello Kitty or has a little sister – their similarities.
One rare morning, Gabi and I arrived at school early. We could have spent the time on the playground, but I decided we should check out the school’s free breakfast. Although we’d already eaten, I suspected the lunchroom would be filled with kids whose families’ budgets were a little tighter than ours. It was one of those lines that could separate us, and I wanted to step over it with my daughter. With trays in hand, we headed for a table with kids from her class. A few of the moms looked at me with uncertainty, but then one turned, recognized me and smiled. She greeted me in Spanish, and I could almost feel the others’ sigh of relief when I replied in the same language (my time in Spain paid off). In that moment, I looked at Gabi and thought: This is exactly where God wants us to be.

Tips on Talking with Your Child about Differences

• Know your child’s “normal.” Look at the world through your child’s eyes to better understand what she might see as different. If everyone in your family wears glasses or has curly hair, then she expects that. Use her worldview as a starting point to discuss others’ differences.

• Compare and contrast. Ask your child to compare himself to people he knows and loves. How are you the same as Grandma? How are you different? Who is taller, you or Mommy? Who likes ice cream more, you or your brother? Then reinforce that God made us all in his image. Our differences show how creative he is.

• Allow kids to react. Don’t expect your child to know and understand all the social nuances you have built up over your lifetime. When (not if) your preschooler shouts those oh-so-embarrassing observations in the grocery check-out line, acknowledge her and gently tell her you will talk about them later in private. Make sure you follow up so she has an opportunity to react and be heard.

• Limit your explanations. Answer the questions your child asks, but don’t give more information than he’s looking for. When your son asks about a neighbor’s accent, don’t describe the history of U.S. immigration. Instead, ask your neighbor to teach your child a few words in a new language. This puts the focus back on the relationship and how you can learn from each other.

• Remember Jesus’ example. Jesus surrounded himself with a whole cast of characters who made a variety of lifestyle choices. When asked what his greatest commandment was, Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). If differences are a result of lifestyle choices you aren’t comfortable with, focus on Jesus’ example.

___________________________________________________________
Alexandra Kuykendall is Editor of Mom and Leader Content for MOPS International and a regular contributor to MomSense magazine, Connections magazine, the blog at mom-ology.org and MOPS video curriculum. Alex shares her mom-expertise with audiences as large as 5,000 and also acknowledges that she is always learning something new as the mom of four children, ages 6 months to nine.

Comments

  1. Do you go to Madison Elementary in Redondo Beach, CA? Your school sounds just like ours. Pretty great, huh? I love our diverse community and the schools my kids have attended.

Speak Your Mind

*