Diversity in Community: Having the conversation in the Early Years
Children do not see colour or ability when they look at one another- they see a friend, a peer, someone with whom they can talk, play, and engage.
They see a smile, open body language, an unbiased moment.
Bias and prejudice are only developed in later years when adults share ignorance and lead by the wrong example, citing conflicts over country, creed and religion. Impressionable young children are filled with positivity and willingness to learn; differences in appearance; culture and abilities are obsolete. Children have the remarkable ability to absorb learning without filters and flourish when dialogue is open, honest and mutual values and cultures and shared.
Connections and interactions
The wholesomeness and genuine connections children make without bias are some of the most heartwarming and hopeful interactions you can see. However, what is not so heart warming is that children in the community cannot always see themselves reflected in a shop window, on a tv program, in a toy store, or even on digital platforms.
While there have been changes, and improvements, there needs to be more. Take iconic toy brand Mattel- it only released its first Barbie of African/American heritage, a Barbie of colour in 1980. It took until 2016 to release a Barbie that had a differently shaped body, seven different skin tones, 22 different eye colours, and 24 different hairstyles! Continuing on some 30+ years later from the Barbie with different skin colour, to release a Barbie in a wheelchair in 2019. They are leading the way – but there needs to be more!
Unique and different!
The Paralympics is another example where children with different abilities can begin to see their involvement and the positive possibilities in the future of sport or events. While the Paralympics began in 1960 with only 23 countries, and now includes over 100 countries and athletes competing, there is still a disparity in the amount of funding between the Paralympics and the Olympics. Why? Adults sometimes fail to see other people’s abilities through the eyes of a child because they themselves don’t quite understand each of us is unique and different, in a child’s eyes it should be an equal world!
Diversity does go beyond the physical though – there are internal differences that make people unique, there are medical conditions that give children a different outlook, and there are gender fluid roles in society – all these need to be recognized and acknowledged by society, not splashed as headlines and throw away articles in the media. Open, honest, age appropriate conversation needs to be had, and it starts with us. The proactive ‘Grown Up’ reading this piece!
Diversity across the community
We, the ‘Grown Ups’ – the so-called mature people in society- need to talk with one another about physical, psychological, and gender in an open and non-bias way! People can have different abilities because of a medical condition but let’s not look at what they can’t do and instead what they can do!
Let’s ask the questions, let’s talk in the open, and let’s embrace the uniqueness of everyone in our community! Change starts with just one person; will it be YOU?
Diversity across the community is a big topic, and one that at times people find challenging to raise with children, but the best way to start is often with a conversation. Sharing a story or listening to words of a song.
Explore Imagineland, while yes, an imaginary place with imaginary characters, they do have unique traits and abilities and are each diverse in their own way. Our characters’ differences are discussed, shared, acknowledged. The Imagineland kids and characters interact and communicate with new ‘friends’ they meet on each adventure.
To start your conversation about diversity, talk about uniqueness, talk about abilities, talk about differences,just talk!