Many people today are greatly impacted by the sheer volume of racism and discrimination present in the news. Also at schools, in the workplace, and at home. It is almost like individuals have been holding in all of their pent up emotions and distress. That witnessing or experiencing some type of ongoing discrimination tends to bring forth. Discrimination may influence our mental health in ways that we can’t even imagine. The value of diversity is important.
Like a dam that has been struggling to keep back the dangerous waters from flooding the landscape of our lives, ongoing discrimination can turn violent when all of that pain, anger and fear are finally released into the universe. A seasoned psychiatrist in Briar Creek, NC, offers some practical tips on how parents can open up conversations with their kids regarding discrimination and the value of diversity in a calm manner.
When Should Parents Have “That Talk” About Discrimination?
Rather than put off having conversations with our kids that parents perceive as being difficult to explain or understand, it is better to allow younger children to naturally ask questions as they come up about differences in beliefs, gender, appearance and so forth. Kids by nature are highly curious, and they want to know all about the world around them.
Some scientific research studies have shown that children do pick up on difference between people or themselves far younger than most of us would have thought. By the time that your child brings up the fact that someone is making them feel bad or different, the discrimination usually has been ongoing for quite awhile.
Being a Good Role Model Is the Most Important Step in Teaching Tolerance and Value of Diversity
Even very young children can benefit from seeing their parents and older siblings treat others that might seem different from their family members in some way as persons that they value and want to be around.
If a child has a question about racial, religious or appearance differences, parents should honestly answer the question using language on their level. Generally, it is usually best to not over answer the question.
Expose Your Children to Different Cultures, Races & Religions
Sometimes, people develop certain beliefs about another culture that is different than their own simply due to inexperience with that culture. It has been shown that kids who are exposed to others that may not look like their family or current friends tend to treat them as they would anyone else.
Most prejudice viewpoints arise out of fears or misinformation that may come their way. Those false beliefs can turn into discrimination later in life. Most psychiatrists believe that ongoing discrimination can negatively influence a person’s mental health. Discrimination often turns into bullying if it is not caught and redirected early in the process.
Diversity & Change Can Be a Good Thing
The best way to teach kids not to discriminate against others that are different in some fashion from them is to teach kids the value of diversity rather than those negative thoughts and actions.
Exposing your children to different cultures, races and religions can be a teaching experience. Most younger kids tend to accept people just the way that they are. Prejudices usually happen later as the child sees their elders treat someone not like them and models that discriminatory behavior.
Keep Discussions About Diversity As Being Positive & Hopeful
A child who feels different from their peers will often develop mental health issues like chronic anxiety, depression, inner anger or self-harming behaviors. It is important for parents and teachers to watch for these signs and intervene. Especially if the child is being bullied or made fun of for being unlike the others.
There are lots of great children’s books that tackle the subjects of diversity and discrimination. Written in a positive manner and in language that your child is able to understand. This can be a fun way to learn why everyone has unique talents and abilities. No matter where they live, what their skin color is, or where they choose to worship.
Other Tips for Teaching Kids About Discrimination & Diversity Issues
Does your neighborhood tend to not be very diverse? Take your kids to someplace where they can have some exposure to different people groups and different cultures.
More tips include:
- Take kids to the beach, zoo, museum or other fun spot where more kids will be
- Read books about the subject at their age level
- Enroll kids in daycare, dance, martial arts etc.
- Watch movies & television programs that promote equality & tolerance
- Keep it simple