Our country is rich in diversity. Teixeira Murray gives some pointers on how to teach children to celebrate these differences and truly appreciate them.

Living in South Africa is such a gift, and though we may have many challenges, we are blessed to live in a country with a variety of cultures, languages, traditions, and beliefs. As we become more deeply rooted in the democracy of our country, we need to become more appreciative of the diversity we are surrounded by.

It is only natural that young children wonder about those who are different from them in some way, so it’s important to teach your child about the value of diversity. Show your children that these differences in beliefs, cultures, and religions only serve to enrich our lives and bring new ideas and energies to our world.

Diversity is understanding that we are all unique and different and that we are beautiful this way. Teaching our children about diversity should be at the core of everything we do, because we are surrounded by people from different races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, abilities, beliefs and ideologies and we should teach our children to embrace this as part of our humanity as opposed to shying away from it.

Children who learn in and about diverse environments, grow to be more confident and conscious humans in society. They learn to embrace, rather than feel scared or intimidated by people who are different.

For this reason, you must talk about the importance of valuing diversity.

Ideas to try

Parents can also help their children cultivate a love and appreciation for diversity by implementing some of the following tips:

  • When your child asks why someone is different or does things differently, never over-complicate your answer. Always keep it simple.
  • Choose to be proud of who you are and of your heritage. Teach your children about who they are and where they come from, and help them affirm their identities.
  • Celebrate your family history, traditions, beliefs and values and try to visit places where your forefathers come from. History helps to shape the identity of the child and helps to shape their narrative and an appreciation for heritage. Understanding who you are helps to understand who others are.
  • Buy and play with cultural or traditional toys. Purchasing toys that promote diversity helps your child to appreciate diversity through positive play.
  • Share your traditions with others. Whether it be Christmas, Eid or Diwali, try to include friends and neighbours in your celebrations, by teaching them what makes you, you.
  • Try to visit restaurants from different cultures and eat cuisine outside of the norm, and learn about the origins of the food.
  • Where possible, travel to different places both locally and internationally, to learn more about cultures and home in on fun facts about the culture, tribe, or people from that place.
  • Read books about different cultures, race, family types and disabilities. This could also help your children to communicate their thoughts, ideas and/or concerns with you.
  • Attend different cultural or traditional events outside of your own culture. Perhaps a trip to the Chinese Buddhist Temple would be a fun and informative excursion.
  • Try to learn as many languages as you can and learn to appreciate different accents. In South Africa, we have no less than 11 languages and it’s sad that most of us can only speak one. Learning a language is a huge step towards valuing diversity.
  • Always model positive behaviour as a parent and aim to always show respect towards others even if you don’t agree with their beliefs.
  • Be sure to take a stand against cultural insensitivities: never tolerate racial or cultural prejudice. By modelling positive behaviour as parents, we already create a safe space in which our children can thrive and by modelling respect for all people and their differences, we help our children to grow to be compassionate, empathetic and confident.

Raising children in a diverse country is a beautiful gift we can give our children, by helping them to understand that they have a place in this world, that they have a voice, that their voice is important, and that others have the same and equal right.

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