Throughout history, humanity’s relationship with diversity has been complicated. In today’s society, diversity is something to be celebrated and embraced. Diversity can take on many forms—be it race, religion, or gender, these differences provide us with different experiences and perspectives. At our core, however, we are all the same—we are all human. Children are easily shaped and influenced by their surroundings, so it is important to educate children on diversity starting from a young age. Ignorance and hatred are skills that are taught, and as parents, it is your responsibility to steer children away from those concepts and towards ones like respect and kindness instead.
Children and Biases
Biases are inherently human constructs, and children are not immune to developing them. A study of 4 year olds conducted by researchers at Northwestern University found that children demonstrated racial and gender biases. The subjects were asked to rate images of children of different races (Black and White) and genders (male and female). The results skewed towards a pro-White bias, with images of black boys being rated the lowest. This pro-White bias was exhibited by both White and non-White children, reflecting the social biases that exist in the “adult world”.
The results of this study are interesting because it reveals how children can recognize gender and racial differences from ages as young as 4—and even hold preferences as well. For adults, our direct experiences and interactions with others shape our biases and stereotypes; with children, however, their surroundings are mainly responsible because they do not have an understanding of these concepts. With the study’s findings, we can acknowledge how biases can be addressed and unlearned in children.
Educating Young Children On Diversity
Helping our children understand the diverse nature of our world is essential to building respectful, empathetic contributors to society. As children grow up with an understanding of the impact of biases on their personal identities and that of others, they are able to sharpen their critical thinking and celebrate their differences. At school, children will be able to interact with others and gain necessary experiences, while educators lay a foundation for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) related topics. However, a lot of the work will also be done at home, as it will build upon and solidify what students have learned in the classroom. There are many ways parents can support their child’s understanding of diversity—here are 5 of them:
- Reflect on your own understanding of diversity and recognize your implicit biases and stereotypes: Teaching your child the importance of diversity first starts with you. Take some time to think about what diversity means to you and reflect on the implicit biases and stereotypes you might hold. Everyone has their own biases and stereotypes; it only becomes an issue if you let them dictate how you view and treat others. Being able to deconstruct these personal biases and see how they contribute to the bigger picture is key. Many of these implicit biases stem from past prejudices targeted towards marginalized communities, so keep that in mind when reflecting upon where these biases might have formed. Having this knowledge will be helpful when it comes time to explain these concepts to your child.
- Include diverse books into your child’s reading list: Picture books are a great way to introduce the conversation about diversity with your child in a fun, lighthearted manner. Books with a variety of characters can help your child become familiar with different types of people and cultures. Representation is especially important, as it can help validate a child’s sense of self when they see someone that looks like them on the page. Here is a list of 20 diverse children’s books curated by a teacher.
- Ask your child questions and encourage their curiosity: By asking your child questions centralized around the topic of diversity, you are helping them reflect upon their experiences and feelings. Examples of questions you can pose to your child are: If someone made fun of the way you looked, how would you feel? Can you name different holidays that are celebrated around the world? You can find more examples here. Children are naturally bound to ask questions of their own. Instead of discouraging their inquisitive behavior, guide them on how to ask polite and appropriate questions. You can help your child understand what was wrong with the way they framed their question and then teach them how to reframe it.
- Expose your child to different cultures: Whether it be visiting a new restaurant or celebrating another culture’s holiday, there are educational opportunities to be found anywhere. Frequent exposure to new cultures will help children normalize these differences, eliminating feelings of difference and confusion that oftentimes manifest themselves into prejudice. With any of these activities, it is important to attach a lesson to it—your child will probably not view it as such, making it easier for your message to get across to them.
- Lead by example: A child learns from their social environment; how you present yourself and react in situations is indicative of their subsequent behaviors. Young children learn through imitation; thus, it is imperative for parents to be conscious of their actions and words. This is where that self-reflection comes in—to be proactive in identifying any implicit biases so that they are not passed onto your child.
How Student Hires Champions Diversity and Inclusion
We here at Student Hires are dedicated to each student’s academic and personal development. We understand that diversity is important in any school setting or workplace, and work with students from all backgrounds. Each individual is on their own path and has different needs, so we offer a variety of opportunities. In addition to our student programs, we also have online resources to help students and their families succeed. Our blog offers news stories, academic guidance, as well as lifestyle tips.
Diversity is about celebrating our differences, but it is also about recognizing that our differences are not as big as our similarities. We are all human, deserving of being treated with empathy and respect. How we view diversity now is not perfect—we still have a long way to go before reaching global equality—but as long as we are constantly treating people with kindness, the world will be a better place. Children are the future, so it is crucial to be raising children with a firm appreciation for diversity.