In our experience, our children expect us to all be different. They understand that being different is a good thing and it is positive. I see their moments of concern that the different could be bad occasionally when they encounter the questions that come from our family looking different from others and from each other. However, we keep letting them know they are loved and that everyone is different from each other.
They have always been around people that look different from each other. They have always been around people with different regional accents. They have always been around people with different styles of dressing from friends that are into fashion to a friend that always wears bibs. They have been around different styles of food and have bravely tried food from different cultures. They have seen a neighbor work hard to become a United States citizen. We have encouraged them to get to know about other cultures and not just know their own.
I notice as they do free-style art or coloring in a coloring book they make the bodies all different colors. Sometimes superheroes are colored with a brown crayon or marker. It is normal for their artwork to depict children, adults and characters which are colored different shades of browns and whites. Personally, I see this as a positive that they don’t expect us all to be alike.
Teach your child to expect and embrace diversity
They have been around people with different disabilities and know that some people have to work really hard to do things we simply do each day without thinking about it. If someone is walking with a cane, using a wheelchair, using headphones to mute sound or needing to take a quiet break, my children aren’t going to question it as they understand we all have different needs and abilities.
We have discussed all of the similarities of all of the different people in our lives, our friends, our families, our neighborhood and in our church. There’s tons of similarities if only we open our eyes and hearts. We all have eyes that can tell stories if only we look. We all experience happiness and sadness. We all can laugh and play. We all eat a variety of foods and our family enjoys cooking and trying almost anything.
Every child doesn’t have this diverse experience and we need to prepare our children for those children as the people they’ve been around are use to a diverse circle. We need to equip our children to answer the questions or respond to the comments of what are they. While I find the wording of the question rude, it happens all too often. They aren’t white. They aren’t black. They’re biracial or mixed and they are American. Kids will often say what they think at this young age or parrot an adult in their lives. I wonder if my little ones will encounter this question from children. I know I experience it from adults inquiring about them. If they do, I believe my children will answer confidently, a boy, a kid, mixed or American.
Our children must know that there’s nothing wrong with them and that there’s nothing wrong with being bi-racial. I hope and believe they can be friends with all races easily as they are familiar with the different cultures. Our children are aware they are from different cultures. They are young and don’t grasp it all yet however, they’ve been exposed to the differences and enjoy and have fun with the differences in food and clothing. This generation just might be the one to make a difference and resolve a lot of the racial issues.
Be proactive when choosing your child’s school
As we prepare for kindergarten, we have looked at schools and classrooms. We wanted to see what kind of books are sitting on the shelf. We wanted to know about lesson plans. We want cultural diversity in the books and lesson plans.
We have chosen to be intentional about being certain to be in a diverse area and to attend a culturally diverse school and church. These things can happen. It does take a lot of effort. We believe it will give our children the best opportunities to have high self-esteem, acceptance, and to not be the odd one out. Their peer group is just as diverse as our family. We believe the diverse group will help our children be well rounded, embraced, succeed and feel included.
I know we will continue to grow, change and develop as the children are so young right now and our country is changing so quickly. We know there will be new challenges and we’ll just push forward and do our best.
We intentionally live a multi-cultural life. We aren’t there yet and I don’t believe anyone ever arrives. However, we currently read stories about the world, learn facts about the world, we try foods from various cultures, talk about life in other countries, sponsor a child in another country and write to the child, participate in a pen pal program and are learning two foreign languages.
That’s our personal story of what works for our family. Here’s some tips I think other non-matching families might want to give a try to help prepare their child for preschool, kindergarten or elementary school:
1) Talk about being mixed or your family non matching. Talk about the different heritages. Explore the different cultures in a fun and exciting way such as with food, spices, clothing, etc.
2) Read books. Have multi-cultural books available in your home. Borrow them on a regular basis from the library.
3) Help your child have self-esteem by having a culturally diverse group of people around your child. They need to see the good in people of diverse cultures. Do your best to have a diverse group of your child’s peers around your child.
4) Celebrate the differences. Let the differences be a positive. Help your child realize what a boring country this would be if we were all alike.
5) Let the normal be to expect everyone to be different.
6) Get to know the school administrators and teachers. Volunteer to read a book you bring once a month. Encourage the to have multi-cultural books in their classrooms!
7) Live life intentionally. With lots of work, you can make sure you are living a multi-culturally life. ~ Francine Dylan
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