Many people have alluded to the fact that if you put children from different societal classes in a room, they will most likely play together without any form of discrimination. But, what happens as these children grow up and develop their unique sense of identity? They grow up to become adults who discriminate against other people based on their race, tribal groups, and socio-economic statuses. More generally, this implies that we all develop certain biases towards other people as we grow older.
It can be quite challenging to have tough adult-kind of conversations with children. However, when children ask us about seemingly difficult topics like racism, nepotism, and other forms of segregation, let’s find ways of answering their questions. Here are 4 interesting ways you can talk to children about racism, nepotism, and other social divides:
1. Remind them about the tough love relationship they have with their siblings: If you have a sibling, you will probably have had people say to you that: “You are so different from your sibling”. Many times, you are not sure what that statement means. Is it a compliment or an insult? We all have days we love our siblings so much that we think they are the best people in our lives. In contrast, we also have days we get angry with our siblings; but, that does not change their titles. They remain our siblings irrespective of circumstances. Therefore, in discussing either racism or nepotism, tell children that everyone who is “different” from them is like their siblings. We may be different but we remain connected to humanity just as our siblings are connected to us by our family ties.
2. Ask them a simple question, “Did you choose your birthplace”: One way for us to be fairer in dealing with people is to remember that we all did not choose our families and birthplaces. By asking children the question of if they chose their birthplaces, you will help them understand that they could have been born into other societal classes either as privileged or underprivileged people. Hence, they should always rethink all forms of discrimination because they could have been at the receiving end too.
3. Advise them to be curious and not cynical: We live in a diverse world where people behave differently. But rather than discriminating against people, let’s take a standpoint to understand why people behave the way they do. When you discuss the topic of discrimination with children, advise them to be curious. Let them ask questions and read about people different from them to catch a glimpse of what their lives look like. Tell them to read objective texts and ask questions about these people. We can live in a better world if we truly engage in dialogues with people different from us, and if we don’t allow our prejudices to come in the way.
4. Tell them to imagine a world where everyone is the same: Imagine a world where we all have the same preferences, live in a single continent and all drank black coffee. To help children appreciate the value of diversity, you need to help them see how we all complement one another. Children must understand that diversity is a blessing for us all and not a curse. This is to drive home the point that we do not need all the forms of discrimination available.
In a nutshell, we can begin to have difficult conversations with children using interesting anecdotes. Let’s start to teach them about how we can reduce discrimination in the world we live in.