Raising a child to be socially aware is a top priority for any activist parent. You can teach your kids why diversity, equality, acceptance and critical thinking matter, but these ideals don’t have teachable boundaries like the ABCs or 123s. Beatrice Fennimore, an advocate specializing in promoting social justice for children, describes parents as the filter for social good information.
But parenting to foster a passion for social justice can seem like a daunting task. You can teach your kids why diversity, equality, acceptance and critical thinking matter, but these ideals don’t have teachable boundaries like the ABCs or 123s.
Beatrice Fennimore, an advocate specializing in promoting social justice for children, describes parents as the filter for social good information. They hold the keys children can use to unlock a social consciousness.
“The more children are attuned to fairness, justice and equality, the better the future community will be,” Fennimore tells Mashable.
Consider these nine tips to help your children become more socially aware, and come to a social consciousness on their own.
The concept of privilege may seem like an intimidating idea to talk about with your children, but they’re probably noticing social differences much earlier than you’d expect.
“Children recognize gender differences and skin color differences by age four or earlier — whether or not those differences exist in their own community,” Fennimore says. “Your child is already developing social and cultural attitudes.”
Though privilege is complex, conversations around privilege don’t have to be intimidating. Talk to your child about how these differences often make things more difficult for certain groups of people, and continue to talk about privilege when real-life examples come up.
Look at every toy box and bookshelf with a critical eye. Make sure the things your child is playing with and learning from represent a spectrum of identities. A little diversity — even in something as simple as toys or books — can go a long way to promote understanding of all people and perspectives.
But even if your child engages with materials that don’t promote the values you stand behind, Fennimore suggests taking the opportunity to question, critique and reflect on what they represent.
When a child asks a question about difference in public (e.g., “Why is that person in a wheelchair?”), parents are often quick to shush them and diffuse the situation. But that method can leave your child confused — and might leave the other person feeling as if you’re unwilling to teach your child about diversity.
Your child’s curiosity is worth addressing in a strong and sensitive way, in the moment. Not only does this help your child learn, but it also shows that you are a strong ally to other communities, willing to teach and advocate even in awkward situations.
Parents are always assumed to be right. Sometimes they are, but don’t let the power differential between parent and child get in the way of listening.
Children have important and valid perspectives, even if you disagree. Learning about those perspectives will ultimately help you learn more about your child.
As children grow older, current events will inevitably catch their attention. And when those current events highlight injustice, Fennimore says it’s practically required to turn it into an open, honest conversation.
When talking about scary news in particular, it’s helpful to know what your child is feeling and to ease concerns while still highlighting the issue at hand.
It’s a balance, but working toward a greater understanding of world events ultimately makes your child more aware.
Pay attention to what your child is learning — and not learning — in school. Then, fill the inevitable educational gaps with lessons they need to know.
History classes, for example, often paint a picture that elevates straight white male histories and accomplishments over all others. Make time for lessons about black heroes, LGBT activists and indigenous populations — and that’s just a start.
Volunteering is a simple way to do good for the community and your child. See which organizations in your area need extra love, but have your child pick what to do. Giving them the ability to choose the agenda will allow them to be more invested — and guarantees they’ll learn a lot about the value in helping others.
Fennimore suggests going beyond volunteerism to make your child aware of why the inequalities you’re addressing exist, in order to promote actual social understanding.
It’s no surprise that children notice everything — even things you wish they wouldn’t. From your relatives making racist remarks during the holidays to sexist ads on the street, they absorb it all.
When you notice something, acknowledge it and explain why it’s problem. Model the values you want your child to embody.
Parents are expected to have all of the answers. But that isn’t realistic — and it’s OK if your child knows that.
If you’re having a difficult talk with your child and don’t know the right thing to say, own up to it. It teaches the valuable lesson that it’s OK not to know everything, while also stressing the importance of educating yourself.
Fennimore recommends questioning with your child — and working through your inquiries together — to gain a greater understanding together. Via mashable.com
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