Teaching our kids to be more inclusive is easier said than done… Here's how to get started!
It has never been more important for us parents to take on the task of teaching our kids to be kinder, more inclusive, and just be plain decent human beings. For starters, we’re lucky that we get to raise our kids in Singapore, a melting pot of cultures, religions and ethnicities. They have the advantage of growing up around so many different kinds of people, which is why we should know how to answer all their questions properly. It’s up to us to use this to our advantage so that we can teach them to be kind, respectful and inclusive towards all people, regardless of their differences.
Here’s how we can teach our kids to be more inclusive
1. Lead by example
Kids are like little sponges, soaking up information and their surrounding environment ALL THE TIME. If they see you react a certain way, they’ll mimic what you do. If you have friends from different backgrounds, now’s the perfect time to be spending more time with them WITH your children.
2. Build up their self-esteem and empathy
Foster your children’s self-esteem. You can do so by giving them opportunities that can make them feel capable and competent. Start off with some simple chores. When kids have high self-esteem, they are more likely to be accepting of others. Then teach the kiddos about the different types of emotions and how to recognise them, both in themselves and others. Their empathy skills will slowly develop from there.
3. Let our kids express themselves freely
Whether it’s by letting our kids choose their own clothes or supporting their passions — as out-of-the-box as they may be — we need to give our kids the freedom to be who they really are. This way, they’ll be more supportive of others’ forms of expression too.
4. Teach them the vocabulary necessary to communicate respectfully with others
Instead of avoiding difficult conversations about differences, we need to teach our kids that being different is absolutely OK. We can start by being straightforward with them and explaining difficult topics matter-of-factly. For example, if a child asks, “Why does Michelle have two mommies?” you would respond, “It’s because they love each other.”
5. Let them play with what they like
Yes, little boys can push prams if they want to, and little girls can play with monster trucks. The more open you are about what toys your kids can play with, the easier it is for them to understand that they can just be themselves. Plus, it’ll be easier for them to accept others who feel the same way.
6. Try all kinds of food
Let’s face it, chicken nuggets and fries aren’t all that nutritious — and also really boring. Spice your child’s palate up by introducing all kinds of cuisines! Don’t be afraid to take them to the nearest hawker centre and order something that isn’t chicken rice. Food is a delish way to learn about other cultures! Plus, it’s an easy way to prevent your kids from being picky eaters.
7. Read books about being inclusive
One more way to expose our kids to people who are different is through books. There are many books out there that teach kids about different kinds of families, lifestyles, religions and holidays. The best thing about books? You’ll keep reading ’em over and over, which means our kids will really learn about diversity.
Travelling is a great way to learn about different cultures first-hand. Kids will learn new languages, lifestyles, see what other people eat and how other parts of the world look. There are plenty of countries that you can visit during the holidays.
9. Emphasise that everyone’s the same
This sounds counterproductive, but hear us out. Even while you’re teaching the little ones about differences, it’s also vital to remind them that everyone’s the same. Each individual may have different lives and experiences, but deep down, every person is still human. Tell kids that appearances, family background, and even income do not define us. Ultimately, it’s how we treat others and the decisions we make.
There’s no doubt that kindness and compassion start at home. As parents, we should take every opportunity we can to discuss differences and teach kids to be inclusive and accepting. Doing so will encourage our kids to stand up for others and what they believe in — what a great world this could be if every parent did the same!
10. Encourage kindness
Whenever possible, teach your child to be friendly, especially to those who look like they need friends. Show them how it’s done by greeting new people or striking conversations with neighbours you wouldn’t usually speak to. Accompany your child to the playground and encourage them to play with new friends or invite them to join a game. The more that kids practice these skills, the better they will be able to use them out in the world.
This article was originally written by Jana Blanco in 2020, and updated by Amanda Broad in 2024.