How you respond to children's questions and concerns can send important messages about diversity.
Remember it is normal for young children to be curious and maybe even wary of the differences they notice in others.
- Answer promptly when you can. Avoiding the question or hedging sends a message that the topic is unacceptable.
- Answer what they ask. Keep your answer simple and to the point. If the child needs more information they will ask. A long scientific explanation is often more than the child needs or wants.
- Acknowledge their fears. Be sensitive to how young children may see things from an egocentric perspective. "Did that person do something bad and became disabled?"
- Dispel myths and misconceptions. Fear and misunderstanding often comes from inaccurate information that a child may learned from peers or the media.
- Focus on commonalties rather than differences.
For example: A child asks,"If I touch Melika's brown skin will the color rub off on me?"
Appropriate Response: "I can see that you are worried that your skin color can change. It cannot. Everyone has a different color because of coloring pigment in their skin. Melika simply has more of this coloring in her skin than you do. We all have different skin colors."
Inappropriate Response: "Hush, that is rude!" And after pulling the child aside, "Melika can't help that she is different. There are many different races of people. Her race has different textures of hair and their faces have broader features and their skin is darker."