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Embracing Diversity

January 19, 2017
Melissa Marote , MOV Parent

Recently, when I picked up my 4-year-old daughter Scarlett from the gym daycare, a little boy ran past, his full head of black, curly hair bouncing against his shoulders.

"Mommy, his hair is weird!" Scarlett said.

"I think his hair is pretty cool! Look at all those beautiful curls!" I responded.

Later that day, my 6-year-old, Amelia, was brushing her thick blonde hair in the mirror and commented, "I really love how pretty my hair looks when the sun shines on it. It looks like it's streaked with gold! I wish EVERYONE had hair like mine!"

And I responded, "If everyone had hair just like yours, your hair might not seem as special to you."

Our world is very different from how it was when I grew up. In Belpre in the 1980s, I was one of the seeming 99 percent who were white. Almost everyone in my town and school looked more or less like me. We had very few people who were African-American, differently-abled, or of Asian or Latino descent. I could likely count on one hand the residents who weren't white. There wasn't a lot of discussion about respecting diversity, because there was hardly any of it.

21st century America is diverse and multicultural. If we want to live together harmoniously, it is critical we teach our children that people who look differently than us deserve equal treatment and respect. The best way to teach this is by example. Children are not born racist, ageist or sexist. These are usually ideas passed down by family members. Our attitudes about those around us are easily absorbed by our children.

We can show acceptance and embrace diversity by making positive comments about others around us who are different, reading books together that have minorities as positive main characters and watching movies that challenge stereotypes. And, most importantly, we should openly discuss these characters with our children in a positive way.

When I was telling my husband about Scarlett's comment about the "weird-haired" boy, he told her, "There are many other types of hair than what you see in your own family. Other kinds of hair are okay." This makes me think about the Todd Parr books. One we especially love is called, "The Okay Book." But he has many others that embrace diversity, such as "It's Okay to be Different."

Opportunities arise when we have the choice to be an example of open-mindedness and acceptance to our children. Be mindful of what you say because our little ones are watching and listening closely. We can help make the world a more tolerant and peaceful place by raising children who embrace diversity.

Melissa Marote is a licensed professional clinical counselor and received her doctorate in counselor education from Ohio University.

 
 

 

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