Talking about race and racism can be a sensitive topic to get into. However, it is inevitable that this issue will be brought up since we are living in a multi-racial and multi-cultural society.
In fact, your preschool-going children might start to notice the difference between gender and race by three and start to form thoughts about people based on racial differences.
It is no surprise at all if your child starts to ask a whole list of questions as they interact with the people and the environment they are in. This is a good opportunity for parents to introduce the different races and cultures, and to discuss the importance of mutual respect and racial tolerance in Singapore. Imbuing these shared values into your children must start from a young age and you play an important role in doing so.
What Parents Can Do to Help Preschoolers in Singapore Understand Race and Racism
1. Parents as Role Models
Children are always watching and learning from the adults, so it is pertinent that parents reflect on their attitudes and behaviour towards the different races.
For your child to be embracing racial diversity, you need to be a positive role model. Invite your friends of another race to dinner. Intentionally set up playdates with kids of other races. Be willing to point out intolerance when you see it.
When your kids see that you respect the different races in the community and that you are consistent in embracing diversity through both your verbal and non-verbal actions, they will do likewise.
2. Encourage conversation about race and racism
Instead of shying away from topics about race and racism, make it clear that you are always open to your children’s questions and encourage them to come to you with them.
Avoid shushing them when they point out people who look different or they will begin to believe that it is a taboo topic. Always be ready to field cringe-worthy queries without flinching.
For example, when your child asks why a person’s skin is dark, you could reply by stating the fact that “skin contains something called melanin, which makes people with different colours. Some people have more than others.”
3. Read Diverse Books
Parents can introduce books that address the issue of race and racism to their children.
For example, you can discuss how the characters feel when they experience unfair treatment based on their racial identity. Get your child to empathise with the victims and suggest what could be done for a more positive outcome in that situation.
You can get your children to imagine if a similar circumstance occurs in the childcare, what are some possible ways they can respond in that situation.
4. Expose Your Child to the Various Festivals and Cultures in Singapore
Living in Singapore gives your child the advantage of being acquainted with the various cultures and festivals celebrated in this multicultural society. You can introduce the different festivals to your child, visit ethnic enclaves and try out the various ethnic food offered by the eateries.
In Little Footprints Preschool, the children get to celebrate festivals through songs, games, wearing of traditional costumes and tasting of food. These activities encourage positive and meaningful interaction among children of different races in the childcare as well as getting the little ones to appreciate the various cultures in Singapore.
5. Celebrate Racial Harmony Day
Racial Harmony Day is celebrated by all schools in Singapore as a reminder that the nation’s diversity is a strength and a cause to be celebrated.
The children at Little Footprints Preschool are exposed to such values as they commemorate this day every year. Parents can partner with the school to remind the children that our difference is a strength and harmony cannot be taken for granted but must continue to be built up.
When parents and schools work hand in hand in communicating the same message, children will be able to see that diversity is a positive feature in the environment they are growing up in and would be able to cultivate a healthy awareness of racial diversity.
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At Little Footprints Preschool, we create a safe environment for children to discover new meaning in what they have observed and provide them with a space to share their thoughts and feelings.
Children will have the opportunity to interact with peers from other cultures and backgrounds and our teachers are intentional in fostering an environment that accepts and celebrates everyone’s differences.
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