New Handbook to Help Parents Teach Children about Diversity

The Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance program, the award-winning producer of educational materials that promote respect for differences and appreciation of diversity, today released its first publication designed specifically for parents.

Beyond the Golden Rule: A Parent's Guide to Preventing and Responding to Prejudice, will help parents address the difficult issues of bias, stereotypes and racism their children face in an increasingly diverse world. The guide is available to download.

From answering questions from a 3-year-old curious about why her friend's skin is brown to responding to a 15-year-old who snubs those outside of his social clique, parents face difficult issues and questions concerning diversity. Beyond the Golden Rule is designed to help parents teach their children how to honor those differences in themselves and others – and to reject prejudice and intolerance.

"What children learn from the behavior of adults and what they see and hear in the world around them during their formative years is critically important in determining their attitudes about race and diversity," said Jennifer Holladay, director of Teaching Tolerance. "This parenting guide will help parents teach positive messages to their children and deal with thorny questions about differences among people in a straightforward fashion."

This groundbreaking handbook features parents sharing personal stories about the challenges and rewards of raising children in today’s diverse culture. Additionally, psychologists, educators and parenting experts offer practical, age-appropriate advice to help parents integrate lessons of respect and tolerance into day-to-day activities.

Three age-specific sections in the handbook offer advice for parents:

• Preschool Years, Ages 2-5 – As toddlers shift their focus to the world around them, nearly every sentence begins with "why" and "how." Often these questions are about other people and why they are different.

• Elementary and Preteen Years, Ages 6-12 – Moving beyond just noticing differences, elementary and preteen youths begin to understand that these characteristics, and people’s attitudes toward them, often have powerful social consequences.

• The Teen Years, Ages 13-17 – As teenagers embark on the quest for self-identity, outside influences affect the way they see themselves and others more and more. Though they may often appear to communicate less, teenagers are still listening, and what their parents say and do still matters.