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Alike and Different

Owl & KaterinaWhen young children begin to recognize likenesses and differences, they often focus on differences and not the underlying sameness in people or objects. They sometimes think that being different means there is something wrong with them. Adults can help children see that there are human qualities that make all of us alike in many ways, even though we come in different shapes, sizes, colors and from different backgrounds with different abilities and disabilities.

When we help children realize that differences are okay, we’re setting the stage for a lifetime of appreciating diversity.

Young children tend to look at things from their own point of view. It’s understandable, then, that children may be concerned or confused when they meet people who seem different from them. Those differences may be in skin color or other physical appearances or disabilities. They may be differences in how people talk, what they eat, or ways they celebrate holidays or other customs.

What matters most for children is how they feel about their uniqueness once they do begin to realize that they are, in some ways, different from others. How we feel about this early on often determines whether we grow into adults who rejoice in the diversity of the world’s people or into adults who fear and resent that diversity. It’s the people who feel strong and good about themselves inside who are best able to accept outside differences — their own or others.

Certainly children don’t have to like everyone in the world. No one does. But with the help of grownups in their lives, they can learn to be “neighborly” — respectful, courteous, and kind.

Here are some ways you can help your child develop an appreciation of diversity in our society:

Modeling Courtesy and Friendliness to Others
Children learn from example. They learn more from the way they see us interacting with others than they learn through the things we say. Therefore, you can help children respect others by the way you greet people, talk with them, and talk about them afterwards.

Making a Family Book
Work together with your child to make a book about your family, called “How We’re Alike and How We’re Different.” By writing or drawing pictures or taking photographs, you and your child could make a book of everyone’s favorite food, color, time of day, what each one likes to do alone and what each one likes to do when the family is together. Besides looking for differences in the “survey,” you might also help your child make some pages for the book about what’s alike for everyone in your family.

Valuing Differences
Arrange a small get-together with one or two other families. Each could make a snack that may be different or new to the others, possibly an ethnic food or one that’s special in other ways for their family.

It would be a good idea to talk beforehand about how to react kindly if someone doesn’t want to taste a new food that another family brings. It’s all right if the children (or adults) may not like the taste of the food or may not want to try it. That’s part of our differences, too. Just seeing new foods being offered in an accepting atmosphere exposes children to a caring way of thinking about differences.

Meeting New Friends
Talk with your child about how it feels to meet someone new. Reassure your child that we all can feel a little shy, scared, confused, or even annoyed when people look or behave differently from their own familiar ways.

You may want to tell your child about a time when you met someone who seemed different at first. But, as you got to know that person, you came to appreciate him or her. It often takes time to get to know someone and to find out what you enjoy talking about or doing together.

Talking about your child’s feelings — when ignored or left out by others — can help your child develop empathy and begin to see things from another person’s point of view.



Produced by: Support from:
Fred Rogers Productions logo Corporation for Public Broadcasting logo Rite Aid Foundation “529 “Vroom”

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