How To Teach Kids About Diversity + Inclusivity
Many years ago (then Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts Parent Education Program Manager) Amy Cody was a beloved regular contributor to Boston Mamas. She has since retired, and it has been simply delightful to connect with Ran Courant-Morgan, the person who filled Amy’s role. I actually initially connected with Ran via work I do with sex education provider AMAZE.org (you can see Ran and me on camera talking about how to talk to kids about gender!) but when I thought about refreshing Amy Cody’s post on Pride Month, I asked Ran about revamping the post to include current expertise and resources.
The below content reflects a beautiful merging of Amy and Ran’s voices; sharing simple tips for how to teach kids about diversity and inclusivity, and an incredible list of resources. Also, if you’re looking for ways to celebrate Pride Month in Boston, be sure to check out this Boston Pride Calendar!
How To Teach Kids About Diversity + Inclusivity
1. BE Accepting
We know that parents are essential, and that acceptance matters. Educate yourself and talk with your children about sexual orientation and gender identity. What you and your kids project matters. According to the MA Youth Risk Behavior Survey, students who described themselves as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer or questioning) were more than twice as likely as their peers to report missing school in the past month because of feeling unsafe. It's not just about risk; we also know that family acceptance can promote well-being and safety. (Check out the Family Acceptance Project for resources!)
2. Share facts and dispel myths
Parents and caregivers are pivotal in dispelling myths, challenging stereotypes, and expressing the idea that everyone deserves respect regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. For example, a common myth is that people can tell by looking at a person whether they're straight, gay, or bisexual. We can explain to kids that people of every sexual orientation express themselves in many different ways. Usually, the way that people express themselves (the clothes they wear, how they cut their hair, how they act) is not a sign of their sexual orientation. Although occasionally you might guess someone's sexual orientation from their outward appearance, most of the time you cannot.
3. Take advantage of resources
While some families already discuss this topic, for others it may be challenging. Even parents who identify as LGBTQ or feel comfortable with the topic may still feel unprepared to talk with their own children. Luckily, there are plenty of resources available to help. In our workshops, parents often share that they are nervous to have these conversations because they are not sure what words are the “right” ones. Try opening the door and asking what your child knows—then go from there. Parents are experts on their families, but they don’t need to be experts on everything! Learn more about what you don’t know—host a parent workshop through PPLM, or take a look at our resources below.
4. Promote love and respect
Consider what it means to create a family and community that loves and respects every child. As loving parents, you have the right and responsibility to be the primary sexuality educator of your children. In turn, our children will grow up to be loving adults who can offer the same support to their friends, family, and loved ones. Young people report that they want to hear from their parents, and we know that parents accepting their children can make a huge difference in their well-being.
1. Planned Parenthood Federation of America
There’s no better resource than a supportive parent. You don’t need to be an expert, you just need to be willing to talk AND listen. The open, non-judgmental conversations you have with your children about sex, puberty, bodies, and relationships will help them stay safe and healthy as they grow up. Planned Parenthood is here to show you how to be your kid’s go-to resource for answers and advice, from pre-K to college.
2. The Family Acceptance Project (English and Spanish)
From San Francisco State University, The Family Acceptance Project offers key information on how families can help support their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) children.
More info. Less weird. AMAZE takes the awkward out of sex ed. They offer fun, animated videos and resources for kids (ages 4-9 + 10-14), parents, and educators, tackling everything you actually want to know about sex, your body, and relationships.
4. Diversity Book List
From the Melrose Public Library: Children love reading books that reflect families and people similar to theirs as well as learning about people and families who are different. This diverse book list was created in collaboration with the Melrose Public Schools, the Roosevelt School Parent Teacher Organization, and the Melrose Public Library for children grades K-5, their families, and teachers.
5. Gender Spectrum
Gender Spectrum helps to create gender sensitive and inclusive environments for all children and teens.
The Human Rights Campaign represents a force of more than 3 million members and supporters nationwide. As the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization, HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.
7. It Gets Better Project
The It Gets Better Project inspires people across the globe to share their stories and remind the next generation of LGBTQ+ youth that hope is out there, and it will get better.
8. Kids-Ask: Crafting Answers to Curious Questions
Kids-Ask provides relevant facts and resources, as well as a simple script that can help parents answer common questions that kids ask at different ages. This tool helps prompt families to share their personal values and answer potentially challenging questions. Whether you have a talkative or quiet child (or some of both!) Kids-Ask wants to help the family be a kid's first and most trusted resource for these important topics.
9. National LGBT Health Education Center Fenway Health LGBT Glossary (English and Spanish)
A program of the Fenway Institute: The National LGBT Health Education Center provides educational programs, resources, and consultation to health care organizations with the goal of optimizing quality, cost-effective health care for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.
Uniting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) with families, friends, and allies, PFLAG is committed to advancing equality through its mission of support, education, and advocacy.
Scarleteen offers sex ed for the real world: inclusive, comprehensive, supportive, sexuality and relationships info for teens and emerging adults.
12. True Colors
True Colors is a non-profit organization that works with other social service agencies, schools, organizations, and within communities to ensure that the needs of sexual and gender minority youth are both recognized and competently met.
13. Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC)
The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center’s mission is to end sexual violence. They empower survivors of sexual violence to heal and provide education and advocacy for social change to prevent sexual violence. Reach the hotline by phone 24-7 at 800-841-8371 or web chat 9:00 a.m.–11:00 p.m.
14. The Trevor Project
The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning youth.