Instilling children with a sense of social awareness will teach them to be tolerant and accepting of others and help them to develop a kind, empathetic outlook on life. It’s one of the greatest gifts we can give them.
With this in mind, here’s our top 8 tips for raising a socially aware child.
Talk about differences
When you’re out and about with a child and they manage to point out someone different from themselves, like someone with a disability or someone from a different background, don’t shy away and try to hush them up. Instead, use it as an educational opportunity.
Explain to them that there is nothing wrong with differences. Explain simply and kindly why a person looks or acts differently. If you feel it is appropriate, you could even approach the person and strike up a conversation which involves your child.
Get ahead of the questions
Children are curious, they’re always going to ask questions about the world and the people that populate this planet.
You can get a head start on teaching them about diversity and difference at home by introducing foods from different cultures and chatting about the cultures with your children over dinner.
You could also buy a world globe and talk about different countries, or you could pick a few different cultural festivities each year, and celebrate them with your child.
Teach your children about different disabilities by watching TV and movies featuring people with disabilities, or you could also do a bit of research on different disabilities with your child.
If they have questions about people with disabilities, address them with honesty and compassion. For example, if they have another child in their class who is in a wheelchair you may say something like: “He may be having problems with his legs and can’t walk. I’m sure there’s lots of things he can do. Why don’t you ask him to play with you at lunchtime?”
A great way to explain difference is to get a photo of a big bunch of colourful balloons. Explain that while all the balloons are different colours and shapes, that they are all still balloons.
You could also make sure that the toys, books and television that they are surrounded with celebrate diversity.
Point out everyday wrongs, explain why they’re wrong
If you and your child see something sexist on TV or when out and about, or if someone drops a racist comment, don’t ignore it. Use the situation to teach your child why the situation was wrong.
Everyday gratitude and the importance of thank you
Make sure your child understands the importance of gratitude by modelling thankful behaviour.
You could do this in many ways, one of which is to go around the table at dinnertime and have everyone say one thing that they are thankful for.
Another way to promote thankful behaviour is when your child receives a gift from a family member or friend, you could help them to write and post a thank you note.
The gift of service
To help your child appreciate the great gift of giving, you could organise a trip to drop off unwanted clothing to a charity shop.
Another idea is to have a look at some local volunteer organisations with your child and have them pick one that they like. Together you could arrange to volunteer with that service. It doesn’t have to be every week, it could just be for a few hours every month.
You could also help your child prepare a meal for a family member or friend who is sick, stressed or overwhelmed, and go with them to drop it off.
Donating clothes, or volunteering to help a local charity is also a fantastic way to help your child understand gratitude for their own situation, and to grasp that not everybody is as lucky as they are.
Recycle, turn off lights and plant a new world
The future of the planet is in your children’s hands. Instil in them the importance of protecting the planet by teaching them about recycling. Have them help sort the household recycling. Alternatively, you could set up some fun craft activities that involve recycling.
Turning the lights off in rooms that are not in use is also a great way to model sustainable behaviour, while creating a vegetable garden and getting your kids involved is a fantastic way to teach them about food, plants and their importance to the planet. If you don’t have the space for a veggie garden, you could grow a few herb plants in a window box and have your children look after them.
Shape the future
There are so many chances to help your child become more socially aware every day. It may seem like a daunting prospect, but if you just use daily experiences as teachable moments, then it won’t seem like such a mammoth task. And you’ll help to build a kinder, more generous future for your kids, which is after all what we all want.
Do you want to help shape the leaders of tomorrow?
A childcare course from Open Colleges will give you the skills to help kids reach their potential. Study online, in your own space and in your own time and get the knowledge you need to launch or upskill your childcare career!