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Celebrating and Respecting Diversity-Beyond Tolerance

A new school year is almost here! Whether you are new to school or returning, it's an exciting time for your children. As your children explore a greater world, their exposure to differing situations, beliefs, and realities builds. These are the essential building blocks to a compassionate, empathetic human. So how do we respect those experiences while honoring our own family beliefs?

It starts with us as parents. The word tolerance is bandied about. But to simply tolerate, without respecting, leads to confusion. Your children are firmly in a world of black and white. Either something is okay, or it isn't. So our statements as adults carry enormous weight to a child who doesn't and cannot understand nuance. In my time as a teacher I have had to talk

to many parents horrified by the interpretations their children have used about religion, race, politics, even family rules. One instance in particular that stands out involved a difference of religion for two four year olds. One told the other she was going to hell. In response she told him demons would get him. These were very literal translations of religious teachings used by children without filters of tact, compassion, or truly a real understanding of an abstract concept that was too much for their very concrete development to understand. Nightmares followed.

So as we look to a new school year, lets remember that our children are surrounded by people. Good people. People who are doing their best to guide and protect our children. They may hold different views on religion, wear different clothes, come from other countries, have different family dynamics. Our statements, and more importantly our actions, hold incredible power with our children. By treating these differences with respect we teach our children to hold respect for others. And your child's life experience will be all the richer.

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