According to research your child can see skin color and hair textures as early as 6 months old. By two, your child is putting words to what he recognizes and between 4 to 6 years old, he is assimilating likenesses. Anything that is unfamiliar or unlike him is yucky or funny looking. 7 to 10 year olds are beginning to refine their understanding of how we are different and alike all at the same time.
I included these statistics to make the point that our children are aware of racial and ethnic differences. Our children do see color and that’s a beautiful thing. Why have we made it so awkward to talk about how beautifully unique we are? We should embrace diversity by teaching our children about other cultures.
We should be the one “having the talk” about race, color, etc with our children. Not their peers or even their teachers!
I know you hear me say (figuratively through the pages) “Live out Loud”, a lot, but that’s how we teach our kids. I can tell them they are supposed to love people who are different from them, or I can show them by actually having people in our home who are culturally/ racially different than us. I choose to show them and show them often because they need to see that it is important to me and to us as a family.
Our children are adults now but we tried to teach them to be respectful of everyone and to appreciate the diversity of God’s created people. Here are a few of the things we were intentional about:
When your child notices that people look physically different and begin to ask questions, don’t panic. Kids can quickly pick up on your biases so give a simple, honest answer. God created us all. We may look different on the outside, but we are all the same on the inside.
Be a positive role model:
I stated earlier that kids can pick up on your biases, so you have to live out loud first before you can tell them how to live. Examine your feelings about people of other ethnicities. Get to the root of any bias you may have and address it.
Talk about prejudice:
Children often learn to stereotype based on what they see or hear (this includes TV, whether it’s cartoons, or the news). When you see or hear negative language about a people group, discuss with your children the inappropriateness of the comment. Also, when you don’t know the answer to a question, say so. Let them know you grapple with the subject as well. Affirm that God is not a divisive God. He calls us to love others as we love ourselves.
Expose your child to diversity:
It’s funny that as multicultural as today’s society is, most of us live in monochromatic or homogeneous neighborhoods, isolated from the experiences of cultural diversity. The options are endless of how to explore diversity: visit museums, read books, buy ethnically diverse toys, attend cultural events, learn about cultural celebrations, prepare ethnic dishes. A simple conversation about cultural diversity was always interesting in our home.
Foster a sense of strong identity:
Kids who feel like they aren’t valued tend to look for targets to release their own anger and frustration on- usually someone they deem less than or different from them. When we value and respect who our kids are as individuals, they develop self esteem that isn’t easily swayed by what others say or think. Tell your child often how important he is. Tell him his value is determined by God, not by any person. Tell him God placed him here on earth with a purpose and a plan to carry that purpose out. YOUR job as parent is to help him discover that purpose.
God gave us the greatest commandment to love Him with all our heart, soul and mind. And the second greatest command was to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Our “neighbor” is anyone breathing on this planet, regardless of what they look or sound like. Let’s raise our kids to love and be culturally aware of their “neighbors”.
Keep Living Out Loud
in HIM, terry