Children come to us dressed in many colors. Helping the children we teach to understand and appreciate each other’s many colors and differences is one of the most important lessons in life. Teaching about diversity begins at home, but any time, anywhere we have a group of children in our care, teachable moments can arise.
As we engage children in learning about missionaries who work with people from all over the world, teachers involved in missions education have the opportunity to help children develop a proactive and global mindset. The “universal virtues such as honesty, respect, patience, generosity, and empathy”
are essential to include in every lesson we teach. Teaching children to embrace these virtues is a lifelong process, but it’s a process that hopefully will change a child, change the world.
If we are serious about helping our children become Christ-followers who love one another, help one another, and be kind to one another, we should make a concerted effort ourselves to learn more about various cultural backgrounds. We should stop and examine what prejudices we might have and ways we demonstrate discriminatory behavior. We need to be alert to and aware of potential bias. But awareness of these problems without action is useless. So what actions can we take?
We can read authentic books or tell stories about various cultures to children, not just occasionally, but every day. We can help children identify similarities and differences between the child in the book and themselves. If a book suggests stereotyping, we can use it to help children think critically. We can encourage children to participate in cultural/ethnic projects, and share what they have learned. We can get to know people from diverse backgrounds—really get to know them. We can spend time with them, reach out to them, and hopefully become friends with them. We can remind children how Jesus showed love to all people. We can pay careful attention when our children show behaviors that send a negative message about someone of a different racial/cultural/ethnic background.
Children, and even preschoolers, are quite capable of processing issues such as not letting the brown-skinned child join in the white girls’ club or a child who speaks English not letting the Hispanic child play because he “talks funny.” We can learn how to address these issues with our children and guide them to think analytically. We can guide our children’s ideas about diversity and fairness, and help them learn that all God’s children are beautiful, uniquely created, and loved by God. Our children, all of our children, are worth it no matter in what color they come to us.
Children in Action Editor
 Tavangar, Homa Sabet; Growing Up Global: Raising Children to Be at Home in the World; (Ballantine Books, New York; 2009; p. 3).