The only thing that is clear me right now is being a good human, raising good humans and making strong connections with other humans.
As I hold steady to these ideas I realize one of the things I am most passionate about is acknowledging and celebrating diversity with children starting at a young age. By starting these conversations at a young age we can raise healthier kids and prepare them to be good citizens of the world.
I am a black mother of two multi-racial girls, married to a white man. When my oldest was an incredibly verbal two year old, she had some interactions with friends that lead to her have negative feelings about her brown skin and other individuals with brown skin. At the time, we were first time parents, and had no idea where to begin as couple with vastly different backgrounds. We enlisted the help of a child psychologist and early childhood education experts with diversity education experience to help us be better parents. The world is sending all of our children strong, yet subtle messages about differences everyday.
THE BIGGEST TAKEAWAY we learned from these experts is by not talking to our children about differences, we are allowing the world around them to fill in the blanks.
Children are categorizing the world everyday, and as parents we can help our children cultivate this language to be the positive forces we hope they will be in this world. At the time, our child psychologist told us to start with what our daughter knew and loved…colors. She emphasized the importance of acknowledging that we are all different and celebrating those differences.
This magical book, The Colors of Us by Karen Katz, was a wonderful gift to our family. It helped us build language around recognizing the vast array of skin colors and emphasizing the beauty in these differences. It has been a wonderful tool for many parents in our community, and we hope you enjoy it.
A few other highlights we learned from our child psychologist and early childhood educators about discussing differecnes:
- Our amazing preschool director always said, “children need windows and mirrors.” Windows to see through to worlds that are different than theirs and mirrors to see reflections of themselves. It is important to try to find environments that allow them to have children and adults that are both reflections of themselves and that are different from them.
- Make sure the children’s books and toys that come into your home have diverse characters that reflect the world.
- Visit children’s museum and places that allow your children to interact with children from a range of backgrounds and circumstances.
- Ensure your community and friends allow your children to see reflections of themselves, but also individuals that are different then them.
- At age appropriate times, acknowledge the injustice attached to differences. Point out examples and individuals that dismantle stereotypes.
- Acknowledge differences wherever you go and talk about them with positive language. They are learning and listening with every interaction and this can be very useful for young children learning to categorize everything. When we were walking down the street we would point out individuals or acknowledge things they might be seeing. For example:
- “What a lovely purple scarf, I know purple is your favorite color. I couldn’t help but also admire her beautiful chocolate brown skin.”
- “I noticed you were noticing the man walking with the cane, are you wondering why he uses a cane? Some people do not have two working legs like us and need a little extra support when they walk. I loved his yellow cane and the way he smiled at us as he passed by.”
- “You were admiring her pink princess dress and I couldn’t help but notice her beautiful cocoa skin.”
We are all in this world together and have so much to teach other. What have you learned about celebrating diversity with children?
Here are a few other books that we find to be powerful tools for helping children understand and celebrate differences: The Great Big Book of Families, I am Martin Luther King, Jr. (Ordinary People Change the World), I am Rosa Parks (Ordinary People Change the World), Amazing Grace, Last Stop on Market Street, It’s Okay To Be Different, The Name Jar, I Like Myself, Wonder, and El Deafo.
Do you have any favorite tips, children’s books, articles or podcasts that help parents learn to celebrate differences?
A list we created of 18 children’s books that celebrate gender diversity.
A breakdown by age of how to talk to children about racism.
Teaching Tolerance: a guide for white parents.
An amazing podcast about how to not (accidentally raise a racist).
An timeless podcast by This American Life on ways to teach children about race, death and sex.
Books with children of color just being kids.