Hints and tips to teach children respect for diversity and how important it is
We live in a diverse world. Our life is a tapestry of differences, we have been inhabiting diversity since we were children. Suffice to think about day and night: you can't have one without the other. Children should be taught from an early age how important diversity is, to think of it as a wealth and resource for growth: diversity is scary only when unknown and kept out of sight.
How to deal with diversity
Children notice differences because they are keen observers: boys and girls, tall and short, thin and chubby, sporty and sedentary, pizza lovers and sweet lovers, indolent and studious, fast and slow, healthy and sick, brave and timorous, light-skinned and dark-skinned, Italian and foreign. They ask questions because they are curious, they want to learn, and they need adults to help them understand. Children's questions need to be answered with honesty and serenity, in a simple and respectful manner, without concealment or disguise. We should always bear in mind that differences bring new opportunities for growth and development.
Children imitate their parents
We should not be prejudiced but think of diversity as richness, leaving preconceptions behind and promoting diversity as a resource; we need to teach children respect and empathy, helping them to understand how it feels to be in other people's shoes and to have a kind heart. If we set a good example, they will learn from us.
How to talk about diversity
Pretending that diversity doesn't exist is counterproductive to children's growth; we all have our differences but they should not prevent us from becoming friends and respecting each other. How, then, do we answer when children ask us about diversity? Here are some practical tips:
We are not all the same, each of us has different characteristics that make him or her unique; diversity exists, is prevalent, and every one of us has his or her own particular way of living and being “in” and “with” the world. It's precisely our individual way of being that makes every one of us extraordinary and one-of-a-kind!