Today marks Racial Harmony Day in Singapore – a time to reflect and celebrate the diversity in Singapore’s multicultural society. For parents, it is important to raise children who are respectful of other people’s differences, so we have some tips and ideas you can do with your little ones to mould them into tolerant individuals.
It Starts with You
Young children tend to mould their behaviour based on what they see their parents do, which is why the first step towards raising tolerant children is to ensure you are setting a good example for them. Your children grow up watching you; they witness how you behave and treat the people around you. By showing them that you are accepting and understanding of people from different backgrounds and cultures, your children will learn that being inclusive is the norm, and they will grow up with the same set of values you have taught them.
Expose Them to Different Groups of People
One of the easiest ways to accept and understand people from different backgrounds is by getting to know them. Living in a multicultural society like Singapore, it is not hard to meet people from different walks of life. When your children enter school, they will most likely meet other children who are of different races and religions. Even in your own neighbourhood, you will meet diverse groups of people, so encourage your children to get to know them. If your neighbours have young children too, you can invite them over to your house for a play date.
The more your children are exposed to different groups of people, the more accepting and open-minded they will be of other people’s differences.
Cook Foods from Different Cultures
What brings people together better than food? Singapore is known for its gastronomic offerings from various cultures, so use this opportunity to introduce your children to these cultures. You can do weekly dinners of foods from one particular culture – Chinese food for one week, Malay food the next, Indian food on another week, etc. Get your children involved in the kitchen too to make this a fun activity for the whole family. Or bring the family out for a meal if you don’t fancy cooking.
Learn about Festivals and Celebrations of Other Races and Religions
Watch television shows or documentaries, YouTube videos, or read books with your children and teach them about the different festivals other races and religions celebrate. To really let your children experience the various festivals personally, bring them to the celebrations of the different festivals. Let them watch a Thaipusam celebration, bring them to the Geylang Serai Bazaar during the month of Ramadan, or watch a lion dance performance during Chinese New Year.
Talk to Your Children Openly
If your little ones see someone who is different from them – whether it be someone of a different skin colour, a Muslim woman wearing a hijab (head covering), or a person with a disability – and they ask you about them, don’t shy away from their questions. Talk openly with your children, and explain to them that differences exist among groups of people. You can even ask your children questions to find out what they are thinking and how they feel when they encounter people who might be different from them.