Talking about diversity with kids | Guest editorial

A few tips for how parents can approach the topic of diversity with younger children.

  • Thursday, February 22, 2018 8:05am
  • Opinion
Patti Skelton-McGougan Courtesy photo

Patti Skelton-McGougan Courtesy photo

As we celebrate Black History month in February, it’s a perfect time to reflect on how necessary it is to teach our children the importance of diversity and cultural awareness.

According to census data, since 1990, the proportion of minorities in East King County has nearly tripled, going from 14.7 percent of the population in 1990, to 28.3 percent in 2000, to 40.8 percent in 2010. The projections indicate that ethnic minorities will be the majority population in East King County in a very short time. In some areas of Bellevue, ethnic minorities already make up more than 60 percent of the population. Diversity is a significant part of our community.

While many parents of color talk openly and frequently about race, research found that the majority of white parents don’t. If they do, it’s often in a “color-blind,” equality approach, which misses the opportunity to engage our children in deeper discussions around our differences.

At Youth Eastside Services, we find that many children are dealing with bullying, aggressive behavior and negative comments related to their differences or the differences in others. We are seeing a growing need for conversations around diversity, social justice, racism and stereotypes to begin at an earlier age.

The following are a few tips for how parents can approach the topic of diversity with younger children:

Notice the differences. Talk about differences you and your child notice while you watch movies, read books or see people in your community. Privately point out different skin colors, ages, genders, weight, abilities, clothing, languages and more. Help them build a vocabulary around the differences they see.

Respond to their questions. Avoiding questions implies that differences are shameful or embarrassing to discuss. Instead, acknowledge that you also recognize the difference and give a simple, neutral answer. If you don’t know the answer, simply say you don’t know and ask your child what they think the answer is.

Lead by example. While talking about diversity and social justice is important, words aren’t enough when it comes to teaching our kids. Think about the example you’re setting. How are you treating people who are different? How do you talk about them at home? Do you avoid difficult conversations about differences? As you become more comfortable talking about diversity, your child will also be more comfortable addressing social situations.

Learn about other cultures. With your child, read books about different cultures, visit museums or celebrate different cultural celebrations with food, music, art and songs. Use these moments as a starting point to talk about the differences in cultures and answer or research any questions that come up.

As your children grow older, continue these discussions and include more robust topics such as inequality, racism, homophobia and stereotypes. Help them understand when things are unfair and wrong and how they can make an impact or change situations for the better.

If you’re seeking more information on how to express certain views, other great resources could be parents from different cultures or races or teachers at your children’s schools. If you and your child find yourselves struggling with bullying, insecurities, depression or harmful thoughts, please consider seeking counseling services with organizations such as YES that have a long history of working with youth and their families on these issues.

Patti Skelton-McGougan is the executive director at Youth Eastside Services.

More in Opinion

Heroin injection sites are not the answer to opioid epidemic | Guest Column

Response to article about Vancouver’s legal heroin injection sites to combat opioid epidemic.

Singles’ Awareness Day | Guest Column

One single person’s view of Valentine’s.

Place on the Eastside where Christmas spirit thrives year-round | Guest Column

Crossroads Mall in Bellevue is a melting pot of people.

Message from new KCLS director | Book Nook

Director excited to oversee completion of $172 million Capital Improvement Plan.

Time to focus on school choice in Bellevue and across America | Guest Column

by Andrew R. Campanella National School Choice Week Next week, schools, homeschool… Continue reading

For opponents of a carbon tax, an initiative threat looms

If legislators don’t act on the governor’s legislation, a plan could land on the November ballot.

Inslee: ‘It’s our state’s destiny … to fight climate change’

In his State-of-the-State address, the governor made the case for an ambitious carbon tax.

Eyman isn’t letting a bad 2017 slow him down in the new year | The Petri Dish

The year ended as Eyman did not get enough signatures for a ballot to reduce car tab fees.

Leading with empathy in 2018 | Guest Column

By James Whitfield Special to the Reporter As president and CEO of… Continue reading

Reflecting on the ‘old’ and ringing in the “New” Year | Book Nook

The final column of KCLS’s interim director, Stephen A. Smith.

Displaced by a hurricane: Disaster relocation lessons

Editor’s note: This is the last of a three-part series by Bellevue… Continue reading

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks with Sound Publishing staff during a meeting on Jan. 20 at the Bellevue Reporter office. Photo by Matt Phelps/Kirkland Reporter
Judge delivers crushing blow to Inslee’s Clean Air Rule

It was the centerpiece of the governor’s crusade against climate change. Now it’s gone.