Daily Change

Understanding and Dealing with Discrimination: Guiding Your Child Through Difficult Conversations

In today’s diverse and interconnected world, our children are exposed to a multitude of cultures, traditions, and ideologies. However, with this diversity sometimes comes discrimination. As a parent, guiding your child to understand and navigate these complex situations is vital for their emotional and psychological well-being.

Advice for Parents

1. Recognise Discrimination

Before addressing discrimination, children first need to understand what it is. Discrimination is treating someone unfairly or differently based on characteristics like race, gender, religion, or disability. Awareness raising is an important first step and this work begins with you in the home.

Practical Step: Use age-appropriate books or shows that address the topic. Discuss the characters’ feelings and actions to initiate the conversation.

2. Emphasise Feelings

Feelings are universal. Regardless of our backgrounds, we all experience happiness, sadness, and anger. Encourage your child to relate to others based on feelings, building bridges of empathy.

Practical Step: Regularly check in on your child’s emotions, helping them label and express their feelings. For example, “How did you feel when…?”

3. Open Conversations

Maintain an open dialogue with your child. Let them know that they can come to you with their experiences and questions about discrimination.

Practical Step: Set aside dedicated time for discussions, away from distractions. This can be during a car ride, dinner, or bedtime.

4. Role-Playing

Role-playing and social stories can be a constructive way to help children understand how to handle real-life situations involving discrimination. It can help equip them with the understanding of why it might be happening and help them with the language and knowledge of how to respond and how to communicate and share what has happened.

Practical Step: Act out scenarios with them, allowing them to practice responses and actions.

5. Celebrate Diversity

Celebrate the diverse cultures and traditions around the world. By doing so, you can foster an appreciation for differences.

Practical Step: Talk about different cultures and differences, attend cultural festivals, read books from diverse authors, and try cuisines from around the world and raise awareness of differences.

6. Challenge Stereotypes

If your child makes a discriminatory or stereotypical comment, it’s essential to address it head-on.

Practical Step: Take time to reflect on own biases with your child and how these can influence others. Ask questions such as “Why do you feel that way?” or “Do you think everyone from that group behaves like that?”

7. Seek Out Positive Role Models

Having role models from various backgrounds can help dispel misconceptions and foster appreciation.

Practical Step: Choose books, shows, or movies that depict strong, positive characters from diverse backgrounds.

8. Encourage Action

If your child witnesses or experiences discrimination, encourage them to take a stand, whether by supporting the person affected or reporting the incident. Help children talk about what they see by providing them with the language for reflecting on the behaviours they have seen.

Practical Step: Teach them phrases like “That’s not kind,” or “We should treat everyone fairly.”

9. Emotional Well-being

Experiencing or witnessing discrimination can be emotionally taxing. Help your child to self- regulate and manage their emotions. Ensure that your child knows coping mechanisms to deal with these emotions.

Practical Step: Engage your child in emotional literacy work, identify emotions in self and others. Introduce relaxation techniques like deep breathing, journaling, or speaking to a trusted individual.

10. Collaborate with Schools

Ensure that your child’s school promotes inclusivity and addresses discrimination. Schools can play a pivotal role in shaping a child’s understanding of diversity.

Practical Step: Attend PTA meetings or engage in conversations with educators about their curriculum and approach to inclusivity.

If a school or organisation does not have a framework to work under, we recommend looking at Dr Shungu’s Six Stages Framework which acts as as a pioneering instrument for both schools and organisations seeking to cultivate a deep-rooted culture of understanding and progress when confronting racism and discrimination.

Daily Change Summary

In a world that sometimes showcases the worst of humanity, it is crucial to equip our children with the tools and understanding to recognise and combat discrimination, but it is also important that we facilitate schools and businesses to tackle these issues. Through good strategies, open conversations, practical education, and fostering empathy, we can guide the next generation towards a more inclusive and accepting future.

Article Co Written By Dr Shungu M’gadzah

Creator of the Six Stages Framework

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