Unity in diversity: How we can teach children to understand diversity.
There was a time when you lived in one city your entire life and knew the roots of your community inside out for practically generations. Today, we rarely even complete our education in the same city. We move for work, for better opportunities, or just because we can. The world is a global village!
This also means that we see and experience the diversity around us and accept it. Our kids too are exposed to this diversity from a young age. How can we equip them to understand and appreciate this better? Because such an appreciation will definitely help them grow into adults with broader perspectives and a bigger heart.
Fortunately, children are not born with a pre-disposed inclination to any culture, language, food or anything. They will be accepting of whatever they are taught to be accepting about.
Here are some common everyday scenarios/situations that you can use as conversation starters on diversity.
Diversity begins at home: Other languages, different food habits, different clothes; no matter where we live, we see this in our lives every day. Your neighbor in the next apartment may be speaking a different language and may even be celebrating different festivals from yours. This could even be the case right at home, where you and your spouse come from different religious, cultural or geographical backgrounds. Have conversations with your kids about the similarities and differences they will see on a daily basis.
Differences just make us interesting – Diversity is what lets you have a dosa one day and a pizza the next. You can wear kurta-pajama with as much élan as you wear trousers and a shirt. Introduce variety in your child's palate and wardrobe. You can even consider teaching them a second language. Explain to them how this lets you talk to even more people, watch films in a new language, or read books in it! All this breaks the monotony of our lives and simply makes it more interesting.
Travel is great exposure – When we travel, we learn about the geography of a place as well as about the people and culture there. It might be difficult to imagine a house on bamboo stilts if you have lived only in apartments, but travel to the northeast of India will take away the need to imagine and provide a new perspective on houses apart from clothing, food, etc. Use your family vacations and even weekend trips to talk about the diversity you observe.
Diverse toys - Not all toys need to look alike. In recent times there has been a lot of discussion about the need for varied-looking figures that have different skin tones and come from different cultures. Even Barbie now has 7 skintones and 3 body types! When children play with toys, they identify with them and learn to see that diversity is just a staple of life. We created our Globetrotter Twisties with just this thought in mind. These toys represent four different regions/cultures. Kids can unscrew the heads and bodies and swap them for a game of mix & match—the funnest way to learn that our clothes and skin colour might be different, but underneath, we're all humans!
Discover through books – Reading is a great way to discover many different things, including diversity. Try including books of different languages and from different countries in your child's library. Do read-alouds with your child, look up places online, discuss the different names and foods that you come across in the books, and see what's similar and what's different.
Celebrate all – Festivals are an occasion to have fun and enjoy ourselves. All festivals deserve respect, and it is great fun to celebrate all festivals. It is an excellent way to teach about diversity and how it is great to be different.
We are only getting more and more integrated into the global village, and it’s smart parenting to ensure that our kids understand and appreciate what it means to be well adjusted global citizens.
How do you talk to your children about diversity? Tell us in the comments below; we'd love to know!