What a crazy year 2020 has been! The latest violence and riots have really got me thinking about what we are teaching our children. It is amazing to me how children learn so many traits from their parents and siblings. One of the biggest traits being how we believe, our prejudices, and how we treat others. I talked with several moms this week that have had experiences with prejudice. They have helped me to come up with ideas that will help your family love others in spite of so many differences.
RECOGNIZE AND EVALUATE YOUR PREJUDICES.
Our experiences and backgrounds have helped shape us into who we are today. Unfortunately, prejudices can prevent us from having rich interactions with others who may be different from us. While the national focus right now is on skin tone, there are so many additional things that might be preventing us from completely loving others…language barriers, culture differences, gender, financial state, education levels (or lack thereof), overweight, lack of ability or physical handicaps, different looks, or differing religious beliefs. There are so many things that can divide us-if we let them. Your challenge now is to take a look at what things are keeping you from truly loving your neighbor and work on changing those beliefs to acceptance and love. Your children will follow your example and adopt your negative or positive beliefs in others. Lift your vision of others beyond your personal prejudices.
We need to know who we are.
In order to love others more completely, we need to appreciate our own spiritual importance and worth. We need to understand the spiritual family that we are all a part of. All of us are spiritual sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father. We are created in His image. All of us. It doesn’t matter what color or shape we are, to Him we are beautiful and He loves all of us completely. We should follow His example and love all of our brothers and sisters unconditionally, no matter what they look like. When we see others the way God sees them, prejudices seem to disappear and are replaced with love.
The two greatest commandments are to love God and to love your neighbor. (see Matthew 22: 35-40) You really cannot do one without doing the other. I have seen that those that truly love God and try to follow Christ are kinder to others, even when it is difficult. Christ was the perfect example of loving others. If you don’t love someone or can’t forgive someone, pray for His guidance to help you do so. He has the ability to help you love EVERYONE and overcome any prejudices. Ask Him to help you become more like Him!
Teach kids how to react to differences.
People come in all different shapes and sizes. Little kids will notice differences. Start when they are little. Teach them that even though we are different on the outside, we are the same on the inside. We are all children of God. As we see people the way God sees them, it becomes easier to love them. Focus on the things you have in common. Practice looking for similarities in every individual. You can definitely find something in common with every person.
Be a positive role model.
Actions often speak louder than words. Show them how to do interact with others. They will learn so much from you about how to speak to people, how to act, what mannerisms to show, etc. Your kids will learn how to interact with kids of different backgrounds because of you. They will even pick up on subtle messages. What subtle messages are you inadvertently giving off?
Speak kindly to others.
Words have such a powerful way of affecting the environment of a home. Don’t allow derogatory words of any kind in your home. Don’t generalize about any ethnic minority. Even little mean words can hurt. We don’t say mean things in our home like: “shut up”, “I hate you”, “stupid” or any other name calling or verbal teasing of any sort. Don’t allow gossip of any kind in your home. How you speak about someone really affects how you treat them. Instead of gossiping look for something nice to stay about them or to them.
There are so many opportunities to practice forgiveness in the home. None of us are perfect. We will make mistakes and will be hurt and wronged by others. Our children need to be taught how to react after being hurt. I have seen so many people get eaten away with anger, hurt, and bad feelings. Forgiveness can make all the difference. Follow the Savior’s example of true forgiveness. Let it go. It will bring such peace and joy into your life!
Look for examples of stereotypes in the media. Talk with your kids about those examples, both good and bad. Help them see things from a different perspective. We can learn to empathize with others by learning about them and understanding a little bit about why they do what they do and what they have suffered through.
Teach them to reach out in love.
Help them be the first to extend a gesture of love. A smile, handshake, simple kind words, or a wave can go a long way to building friendships. Also, teach them to look for common ground. Don’t focus on differences, instead look for some things you have in common. Start there.
Teach your kids the “magic” words.
Please and thank you are so important no matter who you are or what you look like. Model appreciation for the good things your kids do. Teach them to talk to everyone with respect and kindness. Here is my post on manners.
Have an open communication with your children.
Listen to your kids. Create a safe place for them to ask you questions. Is there a time when they know they can talk to you about questions they might have? Plan a set time for a family council or one on one time with each kid. Talk about current events at the dinner table. We like to talk to them for a few minutes when we tuck them in each night (No they are never too old to tuck in). The point is to talk with your kids and to have a relationship where they can come to you and ask questions and share observations they have made. Give them lots of opportunities to express their feelings ask you questions that may come up in school or in their lives.
Expose them to diversity.
If you live in an area where everyone looks similar or has the same economic situation-take an opportunity to get out and interact with others who may be different then your norm. Look for diverse groups and communities. Invite a neighbor over of another race. I remember teaching school in a poor area with over 30 different languages spoken there. I taught a girl who’s parents drove her over 30 miles to go to school in that area because they lived in a suburban area and wanted her to be exposed to many different people and cultures. I am grateful that my children have been able to attend schools with a variety of ethnicities. Interacting with people who are not exactly the same will really bless their lives.
Service is one of the best ways to learn to love others. When we get out and serve others we feel so much gratitude for our own lives. It also helps us grow closer together as a family, and to appreciate those we serve. Here is my post on service.
Take a stand.
Find a cause that you feel passionate about or don’t agree with and get your family involved. Make signs, email city council members, and find ways to show how you feel. Take a stand for injustice, racism, bigotry, stereotypes, and bullying. My neighbor took her kids to a police officer in the area to give them treats and share appreciation for their efforts. Whatever the cause you are passionate about, encourage your children to BE THE GOOD.
Learn about history together.
History teaches us how to not make the same mistakes as the past. Learn about historical events where people were excluded or struggled with diversity. You can learn so much from their struggles and biases. There are so many great books and movies that you can watch/read together. Also take time to educate yourself so you can answer any questions they have. Watch movies and read books about important historical events. Talk with them about feelings and experiences. Help them understand the challenges that they faced and the difficulties they overcame.
Here are some great movies we’ve watched. What are some of your favorites?
Some great books to read. I’d love to hear some of your favorites!
A big part of teaching your kids to love others is awareness. Help them to see others for what’s on the inside not for the differences on the outside. Don’t let your own past experiences affect the future of you kids. Show love and kindness in your family and then let it radiate to others as well.
Some of inspirations…
- Healing the wounds of racism.
- Celebrate Black History Month in February.
- We don’t have to be the same to be one. We are all God’s children video.
- Raising diversity aware kids.
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