Shaping the Identity of Children in A Diverse Society
While we parents are but one of numerous influences on our children, we still hold the majority responsibility to do our best to ensure that our precious little ones grow up STRONG in an ever- changing society. Outside influences include but not limited to are schools, television, movies, music, and the Internet. All these influences are playing a huge role shaping the identity and views our children have on this melting pot of cultures and diversity that exists within society and the world at large. So, how do we raise our children to be confident in a diverse space ... knowing their identity and still appreciating that of others?
Parents are encouraged to
• OWN who YOU are. Tell your kids WHO they are, WHY they look a certain way, WHERE they come from and WHO THEY COME FROM as well as WHAT these people (being our family) have achieved.
• Never underestimate the power of being a role model. As we model, our kids will watch and emulate. Reflecting on our own attitude toward diversity means that we ourselves need to see beyond the differences that exist. Children should never be taught to devalue or look down upon the differences of others.
• Coach don’t control the behaviour of your child
• Allow kids to do things by themselves and observe from a distance. If they fail let them know its ok not to excel in ALL areas, but what’s important is to learn from it.
• When they fail it’s the perfect opportunity to teach self-encouragement. Encouraging your child not only keeps them feeling more positive but also teaches them to believe in themselves and be confident in who they are ...warts and all. This will also allow them to realise that others can make mistakes too.
• Encourage Questions – Kids enquire, they are curious. Don’t kill their curiosity, instead, consider the answer you will provide carefully. Sometimes kids will ask about their weight, or skin colour or language and even religious differences. Speak openly but remember your answer is busy shaping their thinking towards others and themselves.
• Nurture their natural sense of LOVE- Children are born with a natural sense of justice and fairness. Unless they are taught to be hurtful, they mostly know that it’s wrong to hurt others either physically or with words. We can foster this natural love.
• We cannot necessarily raise our kids the exact way we grew up. I am tempted time and time again to raise my kids the exact way I grew up. Quite conventional right. NOT!!! Do we do this because how we grew up is all we know, or just what we have been taught to believe. If we insist on imposing our own beliefs on our children especially if those beliefs are wrong, we can NEVER expect to build a BETTER SOCIETY. Let us be role models and consider the subtle messages we send to our children. Remember kids don’t do as we say, THEY DO AS WE DO!
• If you have left your home country to start afresh somewhere, your kids still need to know where they come from and it’s up to you to enlighten them.
The truth of the matter is if we as parents do not influence the identity of our children, someone or something else WILL. We set the boundaries on how our children will deal with their differences, and the ones that exist around them... what they embrace, tolerate, appreciate or even despise, when it comes to race, gender, skin colour, religion, disability, physical appearance, language differences, socio-economic status, political differences ’ and so on.
I firmly believe that it comes down to a family’s VALUE system that controls one’s thoughts and ideals towards all these diversities.
Children need us as parents as they grow. Would it not be irresponsible to leave them to their own devices? It is our responsibility to teach, nurture, and provide guidance to enable them to be the best versions of themselves they could be, confident in who they are and loved for it!
For if we teach them right when they are young indeed when they are older, they will not forget it.
“Our children are the rock on which our future will be built, our greatest asset as a nation. They will be the leaders of our country, the creators of our national wealth who care for and protect our people. Nelson Mandela (3 June 1995)