Talking about Diversity with Kids
As we celebrate Black History Month in February, it’s a perfect time to reflect on how necessary it is to teach our children the importance of diversity and cultural awareness.
Diversity in East King County
The Crossroads neighborhood, home to Youth Eastside Services (YES) main campus, is home to many immigrant communities and has the highest percentage of foreign-born people in King County. 2020 Census data shows that Asian people are the largest racial group at 37%, followed by white people (33%) and Hispanic people (19%). Black people make up 6% of the population, which is the highest percentage of Black residents of any Eastside neighborhood. Diversity is a significant part of our community.
Talk openly with young children
While many parents of color talk openly and frequently about race, research found that the majority of white parents don’t. If they do, it’s often in a “color-blind,” equality approach, which misses the opportunity to engage our children in deeper discussions around our differences.
At YES, we’ve seen an increase in children dealing with bullying, aggressive behavior, and negative comments related to their differences or the differences in others. We are seeing a growing need for conversations around diversity, social justice, racism, and stereotypes to begin at an earlier age.
The following are a few tips for how parents can approach the topic of diversity with younger children:
- Notice differences. Talk about differences you and your child notice while you watch movies, read books or see people in your community. Privately point out different skin colors, ages, genders, weight, abilities, clothing, languages and more. Help them build a vocabulary around the differences they see.
- Respond to questions. Avoiding questions implies that differences are shameful or embarrassing to discuss. Instead, acknowledge that you also recognize the difference and give a simple, neutral answer. If you don’t know the answer, simply say you don’t know and ask your child what they think the answer is.
- Lead by example. While talking about diversity and social justice is important, words aren’t enough when it comes to teaching our kids. Think about the example you’re setting. How are you treating people who are different? How do you talk about them at home? Do you avoid difficult conversations about differences? As you become more comfortable talking about diversity, your child will also be more comfortable addressing social situations.
- Learn about cultures. With your child, read books about different cultures, visit museums or celebrate different cultural celebrations with food, music, art and songs. Use these moments as a starting point to talk about the differences in cultures and answer or research any questions that come up.
As your children grow older, continue these discussions and include more robust topics such as inequality, racism, homophobia and stereotypes. Help them understand when things are unfair and wrong and how they can make an impact or change situations for the better.
Reach out for help
If you’re seeking more information on how to express certain views, other great resources could be parents from different cultures or races or teachers at your children’s schools. If you and your child find yourselves struggling with bullying, insecurities, depression or harmful thoughts, please consider seeking counseling services with organizations such as YES that have a long history of working with youth and their families on these issues.
You can be a lifeline in a young person’s life today by making a gift to provide ALL children, youth and families with access to quality mental health and substance use services, regardless of their ability to pay. Whether you donate $5 or $500, every gift will make a difference in the life of a child or youth seeking hope and recovery.