4 Easy, Everyday Ways to Teach Your Kids About Representation

What children are exposed to early on shapes them forever, and that’s certainly true when it comes to diversity and acceptance. Parents basically have a decade-ish to fundamentally influence how their children view and value diversity, while living within a broader system in which inequality is rampant.

Representation alone won’t change how children see themselves and others, and experts warn against anything too prescriptive. But here are four easy strategies that can help:

Start by simply talking to your child about representation

Unless kids have a visual impairment, they definitely see color. Children notice differences in gender identity. They can tell if they have a friend in class who has a physical disability or that, say, their BFF has two moms. Glossing over the fact that humans are different doesn’t teach kids to embrace and celebrate difference; it teaches them their parents or caregivers are too uncomfortable to talk about it.

So first and foremost, simply commit to not ignoring difference with your child — and make an effort to point out stereotypes in the books and media they encounter. Which, of course, requires that you notice those stereotypes and inequalities yourself. (White parents, acknowledging whiteness is part of this.)

Load up on ‘cross group’ and ‘any child’ books and media

One of the best ways to disrupt biases early on is to “bring children together across difference,” which is harder than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic, Krista Aronson, a professor of psychology at Bates College in Maine and director of Diverse BookFinder said.

“Picture books or other forms of media can be particularly important, particularly if you live in a homogenous environment,” she said. “That’s true whether it’s homogeneous majority or homogeneous minority.”

Look at your kiddos’ library: Are there “cross group” and “any child” books that feature children of different races and genders? Children with disabilities and different body types? Ultimately, the goal is to convey the full, multifaceted humanity of people from various backgrounds.

Expose your child to books, shows and other art that is about oppression, discrimination — and resilience

While “any child” and “cross group” books are helpful, it is also critical to expose children to books, shows and movies that acknowledge how people from various backgrounds have had to struggle for justice ― and that highlight how resilient people are.

Aronson steers clear of offering parents any kind of prescription for their books and media consumption. It’s not like: “any kid” books + movie that directly grapples with injustice = child who embraces diversity. It is complex, and many factors influence how kids see their world. But Aronson said it’s crucial to “interrogate” your child’s library and media consumption, as well as your own.

Let go of the idea that conversations about difference ‘should’ be comfortable

Parents really do have a fair amount of control over what books, movies, TV shows, art and toys they expose their children to, particularly when they’re young. But as Gabriela Livas Stein, an associate professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and one of the founders of CAMINOS Lab, previously told HuffPost, “The follow-up — and the conversations — are really important.”

Don’t rely on osmosis. Having direct (age-appropriate) conversations about the values reflected back to them in what they watch and read is equally necessary, and those talks should be happening regularly.

Excerpted from “4 Easy, Everyday Ways To Teach Your Kids About Representation” in the Huffington Post. Read the full article online for more detail.

Source: Huffington Post | Easy, Everyday Ways To Teach Your Kids About Representation, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/ways-teach-kids-representation_l_60174ed9c5b622df90f48eb8 | ©2021 BuzzFeed, Inc.

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