We know every one of our 32,000 employees at KinderCare Education is committed to providing children of all backgrounds with the best possible start to becoming successful citizens of our diverse, interconnected world. We also know that uncertainty of any kind – death, divorce, identity – can be particularly upsetting to young children. Taunya Banta, KinderCare Education’s Inclusion Services Manager, offers five tips for how teachers (and families) can help children learn how to appreciate and positively interact with people who are different from themselves.
1. Use books to introduce diversity
Have books on hand that reflect the diversity of your classroom and the world. As you read these books together, talk with children about the ways their lives and experiences are different from the characters in the stories, as well as the ways in which they’re similar.
2. Stop name-calling in its tracks
“It’s important to respond to children engaging in name-calling,” explains Taunya. “By not responding, children may receive the message that the adults are okay with a particular belief or attitude.” When name-calling occurs, let children know that their words are hurtful and remind them that in your classroom, everyone is kind to each other. Talk about how words can both hurt and heal. Acknowledge children who use their words for healing and reinforce those positive behaviors.
3. Help children ID their emotions
Children experience the same emotions as adults, but they don’t always have the words to describe them. Helping children build their vocabulary and encouraging them to talk about their feelings goes a long way in making those emotions feel more manageable. If you need help starting the conversation, refer to a couple of the books that are already in your center’s library: Mouse was Mad and Glad Monster Sad Monster.
4. Listen to understand
When a child seems scared, anxious, or worried, take a moment to listen as they express their feelings. The simple act of listening can be incredibly healing for children and adults. Be sure to check in with the child’s parents too. They may not realize how much their child absorbs or overhears. By working together you can come up with a plan to support the child.
5. Reassure children of their value
Acknowledge a child’s feelings and reassure them that they’re important to their families, their friends, and to you. Let them know you care and remind them that your classroom and center are safe spaces for everyone.