Three experts weigh in on how to encourage and enable kids to broaden their circle of friends while appreciating the differences between them.
THE MOM OF A MIXED-RACE FAMILY SAYS…
“We put our kids in public school for more economic diversity, and we’ve lived and traveled in places where we are different or the minority. We visit places of worship for other faiths, watch movies with subtitles, and try to be open to organic connections with people of different ages, backgrounds, accents, etc. We also encourage the kids to cook foods from different ethnicities and visit restaurants that aren’t in upscale neighborhoods to appreciate diverse foods that local dives offer. We believe these things build their empathy and foster connections to new people.“
—Anjali Jones, Denver, mom of a daughter age 13, and son age 17
THE FRIENDSHIP COACH SAYS…
“Having friendships with a range of people during formative years means children grow up being completely comfortable around all kinds of children, not just those exactly like themselves. This will help them at school and in work because they’ll be relaxed around every type of individual.
The issue isn’t encouraging diverse friendships at a certain age, but just making opportunities available. Frequent places that are known to have more diverse populations. Read books, watch movies, or TV series where a range of individuals are depicted and that reflect a range of cultures.
Avoid stereotyping! Have an open mind and encourage your infant, toddler, child, or teen to get to know someone for their personality, values, and positive traits that are individual and not because anyone, including your child, is a particular ethnicity, race, gender, socioeconomic class, or ability.“
—Jan Yager, Ph.D., sociologist, friendship and life coach
THE PRESCHOOL PROGRAM DIRECTOR SAYS…
“It’s never too early, or too late, to introduce children to one another. Appreciating and accepting children as unique individuals helps facilitate their development into healthy adults.
When you begin your search for a school, ask the director about the diversity in the center and if the school is intentional about creating experiences that offer a sense of community and togetherness. It’s OK to ask, “Is your student body a reflection of our community?” Then, get involved by going to events hosted by the school, or community events too, to broaden your child’s circle of friends. Read to your children about diversity and talk openly about the beauty of a diverse community and world. ”
—Abby Davis, Chief Operating Officer of Little Sunshine’s Playhouse and Preschool