Thoughtful Ways to Teach Your Child That Every Family Is Different

Thoughtful Ways to Teach Your Child That Every Family Is Different

Schools can try to play catch-up with diversity and inclusion training. However, children begin to exhibit discriminatory behavior long before they reach the classroom. The lessons parents impart about respecting individual differences do more to shape a child’s attitude toward those they perceive as different than sensitivity classes. 

How can you instill the attitude that all human beings are inherently worthy of respect in your kids? How can you demonstrate behaviors that encourage inclusiveness? Here are six thoughtful ways to teach your child that every family is different.

1. Discuss Where Babies Come From

Have your children popped the “where do babies come from” question yet? How did you handle it? Sharing the stork story isn’t the best idea — children eventually discover the truth, and what seems like a minor fib can cast aspersions on their ability to trust you. It’s best to use anatomically correct terms, explaining in an age-appropriate way how the baby develops inside the mother after she conceives. 

However, you also have an opportunity to teach inclusiveness. For example, what if your child’s friend has two dads? You can explain that some families use surrogates to carry the baby to term if neither of the parents can do so for numerous reasons. As your children get older, you can explain how advanced fertility techniques allow couples to have children that share some of their genes, even if they develop differently. 

Nearly every child goes through a stage where they wonder if they might have been adopted. You can introduce this idea by explaining that not all families look alike. Some people might have different hair or skin color than their children — it doesn’t make them any less of a family. 

2. Watch Movies With Different Family Arrangements 

The media teaches children a considerable amount through representation. If all your child sees on the screen are other families resembling theirs, they might not react appropriately when seeing interracial or same-sex couples with their little ones. They’re much more likely to take it in stride and accept such clans as normal variations of human relationships if they see similar groups on their favorite shows. 

Fortunately, you’ll find no shortage of material in popular children’s programs. Classics like “Sesame Street” have long celebrated diversity. Hulu’s “The Bravest Knight” features two adoptive fathers and one spunky little girl, and “Doc McStuffins” explores gender roles in a family where the mom works and the dad is a stay-at-home parent. 

3. Expand Your Bedtime Story Collection 

Do you read a bedtime story with your little one? Please consider getting in the habit if you don’t already. Research indicates that doing so can set your child up for academic success, helping them improve their language skills and supporting cognitive development. Plus, a weekly trip to the library can become a bonding experience for you and your child as you explore the stacks looking for new favorites — all for free.

When making your selections, look for books that teach about various types of families. For example, “Stella Brings the Family” explores what happens when a girl with two dads gets invited to a special Mother’s Day event at her school. “Families, Families, Families” covers the gamut from kids who live with grandparents to single parents to folks whose caregivers aren’t married. 

4. Embrace a Diverse Friendship Circle

What does your backyard look like when you throw a barbecue? No, this question doesn’t refer to your decor or lawn condition. Are there attendees wearing hijab or saris? Do skin tones run the gamut of light to dark? Are there people of various ages and relationship configurations, and do people dress according to their gender identity?

Your kids will imitate what you do much more than what you say. You can preach about diversity all day long. Still, if your circle only consists of other families with your racial and ethnic heritage in heterosexual marriages with two kids, your children might feel awkward when encountering others. Therefore, do your best to expand your tribe, introducing your little one to new potential friends in the bargain. 

5. Get Multicultural

In many western cultures, it’s traditional for only the nuclear family to reside together. However, it’s not uncommon for multiple generations to share homes and celebrations in many parts of the world. Attending multicultural festivals might not teach about alternative family configurations directly, but they can open your child’s eyes to the rich diversity of the world. 

For example, you can celebrate the lunar new year by decking your halls with red and gold and giving your little ones red envelopes containing coins. Afterward, head to a lantern festival or a parade, respectfully observing the celebrations. 

6. Attend Pride Events Together

Pride events celebrate family diversity and offer a marvelous way to introduce your children to different groups — especially if everyone in your clan is cisgendered and heterosexual. Before you go, sit down with a few books and let your kids ask their questions in private instead of pointing or making a faux pas around others. 

Look for family-centered activities when you arrive at the Pride event. The parade is often a blast, with participants throwing various treats to the littlest attendees. Many of these gatherings also feature children’s play areas complete with bouncy castles and ball pits. Your little one can enjoy a fun-filled workout while meeting new friends that embrace open-minded attitudes. 

Thoughtful Ways to Teach Your Child That Every Family Is Different

Families come in all shapes and sizes. However, everything is new to your little one, and it’s up to you to teach them that different is okay. 

Consider the six thoughtful ways above to teach your child that every family is different. Their open, accepting attitudes will serve them well throughout their lifetime.

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