We were surprised by the load of questions my daughter faced when she started elementary school. Despite the modern family coming in many different forms, we quickly realized many children haven’t been exposed to anything other than opposite sex parents with kids all in matching colors. My daughter is Hispanic with white parents. She came to us through adoption from the foster care system.
She is frequently asked why she’s brown and her parents are white. She’s gotten used to the questions and is usually fine with sharing her story, but it would be great if others spent time talking to their kids about differences so my child doesn’t have to. Here are some ways to approach the topic.
Books about different families.
Books are a great way to teach without feeling like you are hammering on a subject. Look for books featuring multicultural families, same sex couples, adoption, foster care, trans racial families, grandparents raising kids, single parents and other family situations different from your own. Todd Parr is a great author and illustrator. His books feature colorful, whimsical illustrations and simple text that screams love and tolerance. Some titles to check out include, “It’s Okay to Be Different,” “The Family Book, ” and “We Belong Together.” Ask your librarian for suggestions or search Amazon for a huge selection of great titles.
TV shows and movies featuring modern families
Yup, ABC even has a hit show called “Modern Family,” but there are plenty of kid-friendly options, too. Disney Channels “Jessie,” for example, features a family of adopted children of different ethnicities. The kids are being raised by their aunt in “Big Hero 6.” “The Fosters” deals with same sex couples, transracial families, adoption and foster care. Those are just a few of the many diverse families shown on the screen. Watch together and then start a dialogue about different types of families.
Seek out diversity in your community.
Expose your child to a variety of different cultures, ages and family types to give them an appreciation for diversity. If all families look exactly like yours in your community, branch out to the surrounding areas. When in doubt, turn to social media for suggestions. Posting, “We’re hoping to learn more about different types of families and cultures. Any suggestions?” on Facebook will get a great dialogue going and give you lots of great ideas.
Teaching kids about diversity promotes tolerance. Children aren’t always understanding and kind when they don’t understand something. You don’t want to get a call from the school because your child is bullying someone who is different than them. Teach them families come in a variety of forms and that is okay. It’s healthy for them and for the other children they may encounter on the playground.