The world is filled with people of all races, ethnicities, religions, beliefs and more. These differences are what makes our world so beautiful but it can be tough to overcome these differences.
Here, Harvard psychiatrist and race relations expert Alvin Poussaintshares his tips on breaking through racial, ethnic and religious barriers with kids so that they can accept all people —no matter what they look like or how they believe.
1. Mix your media.
Choosebooks, toys, shows and music that include people of different ethnicities. You can find a list of multicultural children’s books here. If you spot racial stereotyping in movies, music or advertising, you should also point it out to your children and spark age-appropriate critiques.
2. Widen your circle.
Populate your life with varied friends. If you don’t live in an integrated neighborhood with organic opportunities to interact, consider signing your kids up for extracurricular or volunteer programs with a diverse group. Studies have shown working toward a common goal is the best way to discover we’re “different yet the same.”
3. Start early.
Don’t wait for preschool to expose your kids to people from other backgrounds. That can lead to tension and awkward social interactions, Poussaint says. “Even before they learn to talk, children can learn other kids come in all different colors and types,” he says. “Prepare them for school, particularly if they’re going into a diverse population, so it doesn’t come as a surprise.”
4. Check yourself.
Are you sending mixed messages to your children? Be mindful of how you talk about other races and cultures. If you hear anyone —a friend, relative or your own child —use derogatory or stereotypical language, speak out. Silence will only allow prejudice to fester.