My next LANK blog was supposed to appear on Wednesday, November 7th but in light of the most recent attack in a Pittsburgh synagogue, it seemed necessary to sit down and share some thoughts as soon as possible. As I was collecting my thoughts for this blog, I couldn’t help but reflect on the original vision for Reston by its founder, Bob Simon. As many know, Bob Simon hoped to create a pedestrian friendly community that would offer a full range of housing options at varying income levels. Each neighborhood village would be open to people of all races. It seems now more than ever, this vision needs to once again be a reality.
I struggled to write my blog this week because I have so much to say, and blogs are supposed to be short, concise and to the point. In fact, I’ve been told by many, that parents are more likely to read blogs if they are bulleted, bolded, and written in such a way that information is passed quickly. My struggle has arisen because lately there have been multiple incidents in the news that are horrific in nature. The frequency and magnitude of these events cause all of us to pause and ask, how could this happen? In my short blog post I want to convey a sense of hopefulness and comfort to parents. Yet, I also want to stress how vital it is to teach our young children tolerance, kindness, and empathy. I use the word “teach” lightly because tolerance must be a continuous process. It cannot be taught on a given day or during a holiday celebration, but must be repeated over the course of time and in natural settings. Thus, ideas to promote tolerance are difficult to convey in “quick speak”, but I will try.
While my heart is heavy every time one of these heinous acts of intolerance occurs, my faith is restored as soon as I walk down the LANK hill, hand in hand with one of your precious children. I am reminded by each one of them that we have an awesome responsibility as parents, educators, and citizens to make their world safer, kinder, and more tolerant. So here are some ways to impart the all-important skills of tolerance and kindness; bulleted for easy reading!
Share your own customs and traditions with others and seek to learn about other families’ uniqueness.
Accept and value varying abilities within your own family unit, and within yourself.
Expose your children to quality programming and book choices; aka Mister Rogers (some suggestions included at bottom of post)
Become a role model. Examine your own responses, stereotypes, and humor. Err on the side of cautiousness when making jokes. Avoid sweeping statements or generalities.
Expose children to role models from other cultures.
Do not be afraid when your child notices differences. Be open and willing to acknowledge those differences; studies show that when parents become silent or uncomfortable when their child notes differences, childrenequate the silence to meaning differences are “bad.”
While it is okay to include holiday celebrations as a form of learning at school and at home, make sure the learning is repeated, and not seen as once and done. As an example, if introducing the role of Native Americans at Thanksgiving, repeat the exposure and inclusion of Native American contributions in a variety of ways over the course of time.
View problem solving as a way to indicate that differences are okay. Invite and accept many ideas and responses to problems.
Expose your child to many different places in your own community. It is important for children to view the larger community. Explore different housing options, restaurant choices, places of worship … and allow your child to see the larger community as still being their “own.”
Help your child to label their own feelings, and those of others. Notice when someone is feeling sad, tired, crabby, or joyful. Allow your child to ponder how they might help a sad friend or share in the happy feelings of another.
Television shows that help promote inclusiveness are: Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood on PBS Kids and Dora the Explorer on Nick Jr.
Books that teach inclusivity and tolerance might include: We All Sing With the Same Voice by Phillip Miller, or Strictly No Elephants! by Lisa Mantchav, Same, Same But Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
Visit the following website to find out more about the work of Mister Rogers.