7 Ways to Teach Your Children about Diversity and Inclusion

Teaching Children to Embrace Differences

By Natasha Bethea Goodwin, publisher of Macaroni KID District Heights, Md. January 31, 2024

Understanding and appreciating diversity and inclusion helps our children understand and accept differences in others. It also helps them appreciate the unique qualities of our amazing world. 

By exposing our kids to different cultures, beliefs, and backgrounds, we can help them become more open-minded, empathetic, and culturally competent individuals. But how to do it? Here are seven ways to teach kids about diversity and inclusion:

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1. Start early

Children begin to form their beliefs and attitudes at a young age. That means it is essential to start teaching them about diversity and inclusion as early as possible. How to start? Reading books about different cultures and traditions, exposing them to diverse foods and music, and talking to them about the importance of treating everyone with respect and kindness are all good ways! 

By teaching these values early on, children will develop a positive attitude toward diversity and inclusion — which will undoubtedly be helpful as they navigate the world.

2. Practice what you preach

Children learn by watching you, so it's important that you're their model of inclusive behavior. If you treat everyone with respect and kindness — no matter their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, ability, or sexual orientation — you are setting a good and important example for your children.

Don't just tell them. Show your kids that diversity and inclusion are valuable to you. 

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3. Celebrate differences

Don't ignore or hide differences. Celebrate them! Encourage your children to explore and learn about different cultures, traditions, and backgrounds. Help them understand that these differences make the world a beautiful and fascinating place. 

Attend cultural events and festivals and learn about various cultural and religious holidays your family needs to become more familiar with to expand your child's knowledge and appreciation for diversity. 

By exposing your children to these experiences, you are helping them develop a more open-minded and accepting worldview.

4. Teach empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. 

This essential skill can help children become more inclusive and understanding of others. But how do you teach empathy? Encourage your child to imagine how they would feel if they were in someone else's situation, and have discussions with your children about how their actions can affect others. Help them understand and recognize different emotions. 

By teaching empathy, you help a child develop a positive attitude towards diversity and inclusion while creating a kinder and more understanding future generation.

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5. Encourage diversity in their social circle

It's natural for children to seek out those who are similar to them, but expanding their social circle is crucial for fostering diversity and inclusion.

Encouraging your children to make friends with people from different backgrounds and cultures not only broadens their perspectives, but also teaches them the value of appreciating and respecting differences. It can also help to break down stereotypes and prejudices.

6. Address stereotypes

Stereotypes can perpetuate discrimination and prejudice. It's crucial to teach your children to recognize and challenge stereotypes when they come across them.

Have conversations with your children about how stereotypes can be hurtful and inaccurate and help them understand it's essential to see people as individuals rather than just representatives of a particular group. 

By teaching your children to challenge stereotypes, you are helping them develop critical thinking skills and a positive attitude toward others who may be different.

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7. Use TV, movies, and books to teach

TV shows, movies, and books can be powerful tools for teaching children about diversity and inclusion. Choose TV shows and movies that feature diverse characters. Read books that showcase different cultures and traditions. 

Then take the opportunity to discuss with children how a character's different background and experiences help us better understand and appreciate the world around us.

Every step counts

Teaching your children about diversity and inclusion requires ongoing effort.

It won't happen overnight, but you can instill these values in your children with patience and persistence. Remind yourself: Every small step counts! By teaching your children to appreciate and celebrate differences, you are doing important work in creating a kinder and more compassionate society. 

Let's work together to build a world that values diversity, equity, and inclusion for all.

Natasha Bethea Goodwin is the DEI coordinator for Macaroni KID. She is also the local publisher of Macaroni KID District Heights, Md.