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In today’s world, race relations and other differences among people are hot button topics in our country. When you go to the grocery store, you will notice people who will look differently than you, speak different languages, different ages, and in relationships that might look different than your own. You might wonder why would I bring up such topics on a fatherhood blog. I mention these topics due to the fact it is imperative to teach our children to have compassion for others. We must teach them that not everyone is going to have the same beliefs and that is okay. Showing our children to accept multiculturalism will help prepare them for life in the future. What can us men do to accomplish this? I will outline my suggestions for you all.
One of my first suggestions for teaching children from a young age to show compassion for others is through books. We all know the importance that books play with language development. However, providing books for children that show differences can further help with exposing them to diversity while developing language skills. We often think of this in regards to race, religion, and sexual orientation. That is very important to highlight of course but not limited to those topics. One of the more underrepresented groups are individuals with disabilities. We must find literature that also paints people of this demographic just as valuable as any able bodied person.
When reading to your child, you don’t have to single out anyone in the pictures with comments like “look at that little cute black boy.” You can ask what differences they might see among the characters in the book. To further extend that discussion, share with them that people that look like those characters have feelings, desires, goals, and are just as human as you are. Even if you don’t have this discussion with every single book you possess, your child will subconsciously understand that people who may look different or see the world differently exist in this world.
My second suggestion for all of you parents is to expose your child to other people of different backgrounds. Honestly, I can say that I have had experiences during internships where I got the sense that I could have been the first adult black male students have been around. I had witnessed a wide array of students in an elementary school whisper as they walked past me. I can overhear them talk about a black man being in their school. It is only speculation but I got the sense that some of those students were shocked that I was in their building and had not been exposed to someone of my demographic. I was not offended by this but it did tell me that these children should see others who do not look like them more often.
To prevent your child from being in shock to see someone new, present them with opportunities to experience multiculturalism. This can be done through play dates, travel, volunteer, role modeling, or activities. I am not suggesting that you should become friends with other parents for the sole purpose of them being different than you. Rather you could be polite and not shying away from conversations with someone who looks different or believe in different things than you. Go to the playground or park and encourage your child to play with other children. Take your child with you and volunteer at various places in the local community. Travel out of the country or even to a different part of your state and attend a local event. Finding experiences for your child will go a long way to them becoming a compassionate adult when they are older.
Lastly, I suggest having conversations with your child surrounding diversity and multiculturalism. Expect your child to say something that can be seen as discriminatory in nature from time to time. When this happens, allow this to be a teachable moment to reframe their thinking. Demonstrate what respectful language of others looks like. If you have a fear of talking about differences, that is okay but you will need to conquer this fear. Displaying the maturity to have these conversations will communicate to your children that this is something to be taken serious. Become proactive and have a talk about future incidences that could happen if someone is being bigoted. Encourage them to share with that person that bigotry will not be tolerated and accepted. If the person continues, then that relationship might need to end which requires a tremendous amount of courage.
Outside of conversations regarding the present moment, I’d encourage conversations about the past as well. Talk about slavery and the immoral nature behind it. Explain to your child how people of the Jewish community among other groups were targeted during the Holocaust. Clarify any questions they may have about the lack of women’s rights and explain how that was discriminatory. Express the idea that our society has evolved from certain tragedies and it will continue to evolve as we move forward. These discussions about the past are ways to show your child the importance of advocating for diversity and the rights for others.
For myself, I live and breathe multiculturalism. Embracing multiculturalism is something that we need to accept if we are going to progress as a society. There will always be someone who is different than you. It is a fact of life and is unavoidable. You can choose to stand up or be afraid of this topic.
However, it is important to note that being afraid can be detrimental for the welfare of others. Many people have been devastated psychologically, emotionally, and physically due to discrimination in the past and in the present. Taking a stand and establishing the standard of being a good citizen includes tolerance and acceptance of all despite political affiliation, age, race, sexual orientation, religion, language, and background is necessary to progress as one society. As parents, we can do our part in helping our children become confident with the responsibility of reaching this standard through some of the suggestions I have listed.
What other suggestions or parenting tips would you give to help expose children to the idea of multiculturalism? Comment down below and let us know.
Cameron is the creator of Supportive Fathers. He created Supportive Fathers as a way to help explore topics other dads encounter in everyday life. Cameron is very passionate about being a father to 2 year old daughter as well as being the husband possible to his wife. To read more of his story, please click here.