As you are all aware racism/discrimination is at the forefront of all news and social media at the minute. But have you ever really thought about it?
Is it something we are born with or is it something we are taught?
We would all like to believe that we are accepting of everyone and have no prejudices. However, when we take a closer look this may not be the case. Take for example, I myself live in an area where almost everyone is the same. The same religion, same skin colour, kids go to a particular school. Even down to the very toys our kids play with, all characterise our own ethnicity. All of this done unconsciously, perhaps living in a small island and given our political history, we just feel safer surrounded by ‘our own’ people, but what message is this teaching our children?
As parents we all want to raise good humans, but with so much negative influences in the world, how can we do this? It is important to remember that home life and parenting shapes our children. The very same way how we were parented as children has shaped how we are today. Model the type of person you want your child to be, they notice every little thing, including how you treat people.
Children are naturally curious. They have a thirst for knowledge and can often loudly ask quite embarrassing questions at the most inappropriate times. Picture it, you’re standing in the middle of a very busy supermarket queue. The next thing your child is demanding to know “Mummy, why does that lady have no hair?” while pointing directly at her. They aren’t doing this to make you feel uncomfortable, they genuinely want to know.
There is such a vast range of toys and books available for children, when choosing, try those with different cultures, abilities or just different from yourself. This helps children realise that people are different and that it’s normal. It will answer those questions they have, such as “Why does my friend Emma need a wheelchair?” or “Why has Alex got different colour skin?” This makes diversity in life normal and less likely to be influenced by adverse opinions at a later time.
Discrimination is simply not about skin colour, many people don’t like the idea of their son/grandson playing with dolls as it is considered ‘girly’. Are they saying this boy isn’t allowed to grow up to be a father/teacher/doctor or similarly girls don’t play with cars or Lego… Let your child choose, let them believe they can be anything they want to be.
So, the fact is we are not born racist or with prejudice, young children do not see differences, they are shaped by their surroundings. Let’s help make a change that ensures equality for all.
For more help and information, why not check out Lifestart’s SOOC programme (Shaping Ourselves and Our Children). We explore children’s social and emotional development, understanding of others, diversity, play and many more parenting issues. You could also check out SOOC’s book review on children’s books that celebrate all kinds of diversity. We’ll be suggesting some of our favourite books over the next 8 weeks. I hope you get some ideas on how you can celebrate the richness of diversity with your children at home.
SOOC programmes start back again in September – can’t wait to see you all then. More next week from our Growing Child Programme.