We are raising our children in a world of diversity and it is normal for them to be curious about differences. Little girls will be curious about how boys are different than girls and vice versa. Children who wear glasses in a family that wears glasses will notice that other families don’t wear glasses, just like children will notice variations in skin color and how hair can be curly or straight.
When children observe these things, they may ask questions, act out their curiosity by mimicking what they see or even play out their thoughts and feelings using dolls or action figures. This behavior is very typical at this age, and as adults and role models, it is our job to give them an emotionally safe place to express their curiosity, feelings and thoughts while helping them understand these differences in a simple way.
Over the years, many parents have asked me how they should talk to their children about individuals who are different from them. Here are a few helpful tips:
When you encounter people with differences in everyday life:
If your child asks, “Why is that boy wearing those on his eyes?” or “Why is that boy in that chair with wheels?”:
If you know in advance your child will be seeing people who have significant differences or disabilities:
When selecting books, toys and children’s shows:
As caregivers, we can gently shape social behaviors by teaching children to be accepting and kind while exploring their curiosity. By ensuring your child has opportunities to be around others who are different from her on a regular basis, normality will be established and your child will begin to understand that people are people—regardless of these differences.