Education stakeholders are concerned about declining awareness among children regarding their cultural backgrounds. Children should grow up in an environment that is free from discrimination. They should grow up feeling included and loved. However, the harsh reality is racism and other kinds of bias are present in society.
We might want to believe that children are not aware of biases in the society they live in. The truth is children from an early age are aware of divergences such as gender, ethnicity, disability, and race. At a younger age, children become sensitive to a positive outlook and negative biases connected to these facets of identity as indicated by their family or community. Children can develop psychological traits “pre-prejudice” which is visible in the form of delusion, anxiety, fear, etc. These feelings, if unattended can develop into real prejudice, if parents and the community do not take suitable measures to support the child through effective communication.
The knowledge gained by children during their formative years would to a great extent impact how they would communicate with diverse individuals. Parents must inculcate positive values in their children highlighting the value of all people and respect for differences.
Discrimination can be very difficult to navigate even for adults let alone children. Parents do not feel comfortable teaching children about cultural diversity. Instead of closing discussions on differences, parents should openly talk about differences to avoid reinforcement of negative thoughts. Encourage children to ask questions. Listen to them and answer them. Don’t change the discussion or reprimand the child.
Create awareness about prejudice and mentor children to react to any biases. Children observe and learn from adults, especially their parents. Hence, recollect your own experiences, fears, and assumptions. Ensure you are modeling cultural sensitivity and appreciation for the child.
Living in a Multicultural Environment
Open new worlds for the children. Take advantage of cultural diversity. Teach children to appreciate differences among cultures. Provide books to your children displaying various ethnic backgrounds, using words from various languages, and describing multiple cultural stories. Tell stories about people who have stood up against bias and prejudice. Join any parenting group that provides your children with an opportunity to interact with families of various backgrounds. Visit festivals, cultural events, and museums where ethnicities are visible.
Parents have an opportunity to raise children in a diverse environment. Overcome fear and encourage children to value others. By serving as a role model, parents can educate children to respect and value diversity.