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Raising children in a diverse world.

Today, we live in an increasingly diverse world. Our children attend schools with others who are much different than they are. For example, more children are being raised by single parents or live in blended families. Children in most cities speak various languages and some are children with special abilities.

The challenge for parents is ensuring that children learn to accept and respect differences, thus making them better people. But, where do we start?

While children don't come with instructions, they do come with open minds. Much of what they learn about respecting differences comes from us. That being said, consider the following suggestions:

Start by looking into the mirror. Children listen to what we say as well as watch what we do. So, we need to lead by not just saying but also by doing. As parents, we must deal with our own diversity deficits.

To begin with, simply visit cultural events, eat ethnic foods and thus learn about differences from experiences. In addition, we must make a deliberate effort to get out of the familiar and show our children we mean it. Live your life by accepting differences.

You need to avoid being blind to differences. This is both unrealistic and could miss the point completely. Children will notice that Kaizin has a different sounding name or that Yasmeen always wears a head scarf to school, or that Venkatesh eats foods that look and smell different from what they are used to eating. And naturally, they would be curious about these. As parents, help them appreciate and learn about those differences, not pretend that they do not exist.

As parents we teach our children how to brush their teeth, to eat their food, to be responsible and to be successful. And the way we do that is by introducing and reinforcing behavior on a regular basis. And likewise, we should do the same when it comes to getting our children to appreciate diversity. Because, in a diverse world, it's time for us to move from tolerance to acceptance.

The names and characters mentioned above are for illustration purpose only.

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