In my household it is very important to show my children diversity in everything that we do. Most times when this task is left up to society, a culture gets lost and stereotypes are created and assumptions are made, which most times can trigger hidden racism.
Children are exposed to much more than I was as a child. With the media and how information is delivered it is hard to shield our children from real life, which in some cases means answering the hard questions.
A fellow blogger wrote an article about empowering our children so they are prepared for what they see and what they read. He made the case that the days of banning our children from television and movies are over and that instead of hiding and “protecting” them from these inaccurate tidbits they may experience from society, prepare them.
Your household is the only place where you have control over what your children see and sometimes do.
So how do you prepare them or how do you teach them that the world is made of different people from different backgrounds with different goals and expectations. In school they teach tolerance, a word I despise. In my household I teach my children acceptance. They will meet people from all walks of life in the journey of growth, a persons character should stand out above any physical characteristic.
So how do I encourage diversity in my household
- When I purchase books I make sure to buy books with characters from all different backgrounds. I love to read a book to my child and it relates to what they experience in school or a household with different traditions. It is great to read books with different languages incorporated in the storylines or books that encourage self-esteem and self-worth. There are books that are more mainstream than the diverse books, and sometimes I am irritated with the idea of teachers and schools referencing the same books that I grew up on, but I just make sure to give my children that hidden factor, and that is that the world is made of different people of different backgrounds and they should know what that looks like.
- I purchase or listen to music of all genres. Now some music of course is completely inappropriate for children, but they do have music that is specifically for kids and the genre of music ranges from rap to country, from classical to pop. Nothing will ever compete with Disney or their all time favorite Annie, but I am able to slip in new music often.
- Movies, I have to search high and low for diverse movies, but I have been quite successful, because of streaming movie services like Netflix. I am not fond of television these days, if the shows are not inappropriate the commercials are. I find I am able to monitor and limit those embarrassing moments more when the kids are enjoying monitored movie time with Netflix.
- Toys are another way I can encourage diversity. I buy dolls of all nationalities and shades of color. In my household Barbie has many looks. I love the dolls they have that represent places like Kenya, India, Russia, or Mexico. The clothing brings up great conversations and the books and short bios that accompany the dolls are great for discussion which triggers a curiosity I love to see in my children. Just recently I went to the store and saw a new brand of dolls called Fashionistas. These dolls came in different ethnic types, but they also came in different body types. That had a doll that was petite, one that was curvy, one that was tall, one with natural curly hair, one that was thin, and one that was short. These dolls were perfect images of what are children see everyday.
- I also encourage diversity when we do family art and craft projects together. This is not often, but every now and then I will get an idea from something they learned in school or something I saw researching activities for my students. Every year at the school I work at we do Passport Across the World. I love this theme because it gives me the opportunity to teach about other cultures and also to learn things I did not know. I bring my work home and with my children we make cultural pieces. Just to name a couple we have made Japanese windsocks, African necklaces, and Australian boomerangs.
I am sure there are so many other ways to bring diversity into the home or just build discussion around learning about other cultures. This breaks barriers and dismisses stereotypes, which for our children as well as ourselves it is important.