Children are sponges and their curiosity knows no bounds. Children often have questions when they encounter people they see as different from themselves, be that difference based on ability, race, gender, sexual orientation, appearance, or origin. Identifying similarities or differences in someone helps us make sense of the world. It can be embarrassing to hear your child ask questions about “different” people, but questions often come from a place of innocent curiosity. Their questions can create an opportunity to engage in important conversations.
It’s best to be as honest as possible, and it’s okay to say “I don’t know.” Children often interpret a lack of response to mean that it’s not acceptable to talk about differences. If you’re unsure about what to say, try: ‘I need to think about your question and talk to you later.’ Or, you can always go back to a child and say: ‘Yesterday you asked me a question… Let’s talk about it.’” While sometimes these conversations seem tough, it’s an important opportunity to help kids actively choose to be inclusive of people who, at first, seem unlike them. By answering honestly, you create opportunities for more conversations about differences which also shows your child that it’s okay to ask respectful questions and you can actively teach them how to value the beautiful diversity in our community.
Last year Evendale’s school-wide focus of having empathy for others highlighted how it can be hard to see ourselves in people who are different. It’s important to continue encouraging your children to empathize and help them get to know people unlike themselves. It’s also helpful to encourage your children to make friends who aren’t like them. When kids see “different” people in a positive light, they are better prepared to challenge harmful stereotypes. Young people are smart and they can recognize when somebody is being treated differently. Seize the moment to model empathy and make it clear that it’s unacceptable to treat somebody worse because they are different.
All of us are born unique with different likes and preferences, so there is no one way to be “normal.” Challenge the idea of “normal” to see past differences. Teaching children to see similarities is important, but the goal is not to eliminate our differences. By acknowledging differences and similarities simultaneously, kids will find they can learn from people who aren’t like them.
A critical part of your child’s growth is developing kindness and compassion for others. The ability to relate to and accept people who are different is not just a desired trait — it's a necessity for living in a diverse society. Evendale’s staff is honored to be apart of your child’s journey. The ability to accept others, even if they are different, and feel compassion is an essential element of social competency, which I firmly believe is just as important as any academic training. Socially competent children are more successful in life. Every day, each child is learning we are stronger because of our differences.