Monday, January 24, 2011

Teaching our Children Acceptance

I grew up in a mid-western city where almost everyone I met was Roman Catholic and either Irish or Polish. That said, somehow our parents were able to raise us to be accepting of all people regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation. So when we moved to New York when I was a teenager and were exposed to much more, I was not shocked by it. I was more shocked by all the people there that were not so accepting even though they had been exposed so much more to people different from themselves. I now live in a suburb of Boston that has a lot of diversity.

In my CCD class yesterday, the kids were asked to draw three pictures of people that they love. I had them each share their pictures with the class. Most of the kids drew pictures of their mom, their dad, and one other person. One little girl show her pictures and said I drew my mom, my grandma, and my friend because I don’t have a dad. The other kids immediately asked why. My response was that all families are different. Some families have a mom and a dad, some have just a mom or just a dad, some have grandparents, and some have two moms or two dads. The little girl responded: “and sometimes your parents just don’t want to get married so they go to China to get a child.” She was so matter of fact with a smile on her face which made me so happy. She is being taught that it is a good thing that we all have different families and different stories to tell.

It is important to me that my children feel the same way. They just happen to be members of a “traditional” half Irish/half Italian Catholic family with a mom and a dad. Some of their friends come from “traditional families” of various races, some of their friends are adopted, and some of their friends have gay parents. They have repeatedly been told that all families are different and one type of family is not better than any other. They speak so matter-of-factly about these things. In fact, my 5 year old recently said that he wished he had 2 moms like his friend.

My 7 year old is learning about penguins in school. They have talked about how all penguins are unique just like all people are unique. His contribution to the discussion on what it means to be unique was “So, the one thing that is the same about us all is that we are all different.” Such a great insight! It made me so proud to know that my efforts at teaching my children acceptance are working!

How do you teach your kids acceptance of those who are different from them?

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