My husband and I love to watch the show Modern Family. If you haven't seen it before, it is a comedy about a family that's not exactly the normal family consisting of a father who is married to a younger woman that has a young son from a previous marriage, his son who is in a gay relationship and has a baby, and a daughter that is married to a whacky (but hysterical) man. Man, that was hard to write and definitely a run on sentence...but hopefully you get the picture.
We love the show and it reminds me of how we've grown as a society in accepting differences among others. I think that's pretty cool but can be challenging at the same time. Chances are, if you are reading this article and you are not racist than your children will not be. It's really simple. Children learn from watching us and if you speak highly of people that follow nontraditional roles or are friends with people that may not look the same as you, your child won't even think anything is wrong with people who appear different. But if you are concerned and aren't sure if you are teaching your kids the right messages, here are some ideas.
1. Read books that show diversity. There are many children's books these days that use people with different religions, belong to different races, and have nontraditional families.
2. Lead by example. It is part of your child's healthy development to question other people that may look 'different'. It's actually quite exciting and fun to learn about other people! When your child asks about someone who looks different, take the time to answer their questions.
By exposing your children to other people who have differences, you will be teaching them sensitivity to others. In addition, if we want our children to be kind and accepting of others, we must always be kind and accepting of others as well.
3. Address Racism. This can be a difficult one. I know many people who are racist or prejudice (and they don't even realize it!) Since I've had my daughter, I've realized that saying nothing when I hear these comments can in fact make me part of the ignorance. Here are a few ways to make addressing the issue a little easier.
- Don't avoid the uncomfortable conversation because you feel like you are making an uncomfortable conversation. Put the ownership back on them, they are the ones that caused the uncomfortable situation and causing a poor example for your child.
- Use a touch of humor to ease the conversation (but still addressing your point) such as saying, "wow, Sally, welcome to 2010 the year we are accepting of others and showing our children intolerance! What's up with these remarks?"
- Address the issue with your child by telling them that you do not like what you heard and that you will talk to that person about it. Avoid, saying, "That person is a biggot or a racist!" and instead explain to your child that people make bad choices and sometimes say things that aren't OK but they are still good people.
Ignorance is a huge problem in our society and teaching our children to be tolerant of others is something we must do as parents. Although, it's not always easy, the payoff will be a child who is loving, kind and accepting of others!