“We are raising future leaders and they must be equipped to live with, learn from and build together with all people of this ever complex & changing world!” - Dr. Carlotta Penn
Dr. Penn is founder of Daydream Press, a multicultural education company focused in publishing and promoting children’s literature and curriculum materials. She is also the author of Dream A Rainbow. https://daydreamerspress.com/
Children as young as 2-3 start noticing “differences” between people. There aren’t negative attitudes associated with these observations; just purely noticing that there are differences. Children are curious about why people are different, what this means, and how those differences relate to them. Remember that their questions and comments are a natural way for them to gather information about aspects of their own & others’ identities and don’t stem from bias or prejudice.
Instead of ignoring questions like “why does that girl have different hair / skin / clothes” than me, or shushing the questions away, they present great teaching moments that can have a positive impact on how your child regards people. Talk to them about how all people are different and that it’s a good thing; we have lots to learn from other cultures. Do some research together to learn about a specific question that your child has raised, i.e. why someone wears unfamiliar clothes, eats different foods, has different customs, etc and highlight positive aspects of what you learn together. When adults give positive reactions, children will follow suit.
Get your child interested in, and familiar with, people who are different from themselves through books. Read stories featuring children from other cultures and set in other countries to help them become familiar with people and situations that are different to what they see in their everyday life. It is important to make sure that you are ‘learning FROM’ other cultures, rather than just ‘learning ABOUT’ them when you read. Be sure to highlight that when people do things differently from your own family, their way is just as valuable as how you do it, and there’s lots you can learn from it. Pronounce new sounds & names out loud to get them familiar with them. Ask your child questions to stimulate empathy : “How would you feel if ….. What do you think it is like to …. “ etc
Be intentional in your own actions, language & lifestyle. Think about how you yourself speak about people from different cultures in front of your children. Consider the toys that you buy them; do they have toys/books that reflect diversity? Do you visit stores/restaurants run by and patronized by people from different cultures? Do you enjoy music, art, movies that reflect diverse cultures? Are you leading by example?