As social unrest and protests against racism around the world make the news, it’s only natural for children to get curious. “What’s that all about?” Why are these people angry?”
Rather than avoid difficult conversations, it’s important to address their questions and explain the goings-on in the world in a way that children can understand.
And living in a multi-racial, cosmopolitan society like Singapore, it’s never too early to get our children to embrace diversity.
Here are some ways to broach the topic in an age-appropriate manner, so you don’t have to fumble for the right words.
1. Increase their exposure to different cultures
This is especially helpful for toddlers and younger kids to let them know that the world (and our community) is a melting pot of various ethnicities. Exposure can come in many forms. Plan play dates with families of another race, be they your kids’ classmates or family friends. Attend cultural festivals to learn and experience different customs and traditions. Before enrolment, check if your nearby primary school has a diverse pupil population. Or the easiest of them all: introduce them to food of different genres and go on Google to find out the history behind each dish.
2. Learn a new language
Experts concur that learning a new language is a rigorous workout for the brain and improves cognitive function. With language schools all around Singapore and even online classes, anyone can start to pick up Malay, Mandarin or Tamil. Conversation practice is key to mastering a new language, and you can do so in the everyday conversations with neighbours and friends. Make it a family affair, and you and the kiddos will gain newfound appreciation for other cultures in our community.
3. Be upfront
For school-going children who are just discovering the deeper nuances behind conflict, you can be honest when discussing social issues while keeping your words simple. Try to avoid dismissive comments like “that will never happen here”. Instead, let him or her know that everyone has an important part to play to promote a kind and inclusive society.
4. Mind your language
Words have power to heal or divide. Many intellectuals around the world have highlighted the problem of “microaggressions”, which are comments or jokes that contain subtle discrimination whether or not the person saying it is aware or not. Encourage your older offspring to reflect on the way they interact with their classmates and correct any habits if need be. What’s most important is to let them know that you are also learning together with them and to keep the discussion going on at home.