Raising North Dakota: Embracing Differences

Good Day Dakota

Whether you live in North Dakota or Uganda, diversity surrounds us …
Race, religion, culture, family structure … the list is endless, and one might say that now is the best time to embrace these differences.

Preschool teacher Sydney Barshay says when educating our children about diversity, sooner is better.

“A lot is supporting and loving eachother,” says Sydney Barshay, YDC preschool teacher, “teaching about different cultures”

Bismarck mom Becky Matthews understands how important it is for our kids to understand that we are all different, and to embrace that.

“If we didn’t have diversity in our family I think of how many would be cut out of our life because of the color of skin or religion or because use wheels instead of legs to get around,” says Matthews.

And these are the important lessons Sydney is teaching her preschoolers.

Barshay, “What if we had a friend in the room that had to use a wheelchair … are we going to mean to them just because they’re in a wheelchair? No, we’re not!”

And how might we as parents teach our kids to embrace our differences?

Matthews shares, “I have had a lot of friends that are diverse, in the LGBTQ community, different abilities. My kids have pretty much seen if I can interact and how I navigate a situation they kind of model that after me.”

It’s also important to encourage our kids to ask questions.
Becky has found that when nothing is said, there ends up being an elephant in the room.

Matthews explains, “I think talking about it and even saying ‘Oh you notice they have wheels instead of feet to get around, isn’t that cool?’ We were swimming and he was staring and she doesn’t have an arm formed after her elbow. He was staring and I said ‘Do you have a question for her?’ And he went up and said ‘How do you play Wii?’ That’s all he wanted to know. And she said, ‘I just play the one-handed games.’ He goes ‘Oh, okay!’ And life was completely fine!”

And ultimately, our kids are wise and they don’t necessarily see differences like we see differences.

Barshay says, “They don’t see those differences, they see friends.”

And Becky says that if we are going to accept one difference, we should strive to accept all differences.

“So we need to be aware of judgments we make about religion or culture, sexuality, ability,” explains Matthews. “If you don’t know and are uncomfortable, find someone because there are people more than happy to share experiences with you if you come with a pure heart and really want to learn more.”

And Becky and Sydney agree that exposing our children to as much diversity in the world now is bound to help them well into adulthood.

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