Kids notice differences in other people. They are not "colorblind" as some adults like to pretend, and thank God, since all of our many differences are such an important part of our individual and cultural identities. Kids recognize all kinds of differences — from height, to ability (or disability), to skin color and physical features.
And while it's perfectly natural for kids to notices racial differences, they do not naturally judge one set of characteristics as superior or preferred, until some adult teaches them to prefer certain characteristics. Yep, discrimination isn't natural; it's taught to our kids by the adults in their lives, including messages from the media. So, if you're child is starting to notice racial and ethnic differences, how do you talk to them about these differences? Let me give you some general guidelines.
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- Teach that everyone is valuable.
- Teach that your way of doing things, your culture, is just one of many ways of doing things.
- Teach that many people have been hurt by discrimination and that it's not ok to be mean to others based upon their race or ethnicity.
- Teach that friends can come in all different shapes, sizes, ages, classes and colors.
Definitely talk to your kids about racism. Kids notice differences but don't discriminate until later in development. The best way to combat that is to educate them about equality from very early on. Age two is not too early to start.
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