By Kirsty Swann
The moment you find out you're going to be a parent the expectations start. You can envision that baby growing into a funny, strong, smart person, one you’ll protect, guide, and teach. You think your plans will come to be because if you love hard enough and work hard enough, it’ll work out. Right?
But what happens when life throws you a curveball?
That’s what happened to a family whose son became a victim of bullying at the age of 5 years old, because of the colour of his skin, at the very place he’s supposed to be safe and secure, in school. Imagine the moment your 5-year-old boy, your whole world, says “Mummy/Daddy I don’t want to go to school anymore until my skin changes colour”
From that very moment, the parent shared her story and talked about what the family was going through, I was shocked and upset. I tried to understand how children of such young ages could have such strong opinions, without even realising the impact it would have.
The next day I couldn’t stop thinking about the boy, imagining how he might be feeling, thinking how I would feel if that was my child. From then on, I felt a strong urge to raise awareness, why? because we want to always protect our children and teach them to be kind & respectful.
I must admit, as a parent of a 5-year-old girl, I questioned my parenting skills. Why hadn’t I had this discussion with her already? Maybe as parents, we become naïve about this or simply don’t expect it from such a young age.
We are all equal and should acknowledge that diversity is about respecting and appreciating what makes people differ in all aspects including age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education, and religion.
As parents we feel the need to protect our children, nobody wants to be the parent of a victim that was bullied at school for being different nor do we want our children to be the bully. We must also remember that kids may say things out of curiosity in a way that isn't meant to be malicious. Children see the world differently than adults do, and that’s part of the beauty of childhood.
Now Let’s be real.
Whether you’re a parent or not there’s a good chance that if you have children in your life, whether a sibling, niece or nephew or children of friends, you’ve likely had the “pleasure” to live a moment where a child opens their mouth to make what can be perceived as a mortifying comment about someone’s body or even about yours! And in that very moment, you wish for the ground to swallow you up!
It’s tricky, isn’t it? How do we teach our children that commenting on other people’s bodies is inappropriate, without intimating that bodies are shameful or not to be talked about?
There is no definition of the perfect parent and let’s be honest at times it’s not easy, but those tiny humans of ours are our responsibility and it's down to us parents to be good role models. We can teach our children to be respectful & build solid relationships, ensure they understand that everyone in this world may be different on the outside, but we are all equal and beautiful.
What can we as parents do to raise awareness?
Children will naturally be more curious when faced with unusual things, so purposefully including diversity in your life is a great way to teach them that people and therefore bodies come in all shapes, sizes, colours, and abilities.
Books, yes you read right! If you didn’t know this already there is a wide choice of children’s books available, especially ones that reflect the multicultural world we live in is an easy way to give them an early familiarity and comfort with people different to themselves.
Make time- Sit with your children and talk about the world they live in; you can avoid these awkward encounters and give them the language and confidence to approach differences with kindness and curiosity.
Exposure to different diversities; show interest in other religions and cultures, build friendships and relationships with peers.
Like me, if you never thought about the importance of raising awareness with your children. I hope reading this urges you to encourage your children to understand all the diversity in the world and together we can make the world a happier place.
Let’s teach our children that, just like a rainbow, humans come in a variety of colours, and each is unique and perfect. Each child deserves to dream big, love who they are, accept their silliness and not fear the world they live in.