Talking to kids about compassion
Kid 1: Are you a boy or a girl?
Kid 2: I’m a girl.
Kid 1: Really? You look like a boy.
Kid 2: I’m a girl.
Kid 1: But you have short hair.
Kid 2: So what?
Kid 1: You talk like a boy.
Kid 2: What does that even mean?
Kid 1: You dress like a boy.
Kid 2: So?
Kid 1: Are you sure you’re a girl?
Kid 3: But you talk like a boy!
It was time to talk to Kids 1 and 3. Kid 1 seemed to get that asking once, maybe even twice, is understandable, and Kid 2 had answered with patience and kindness. But asking again and again, pressing the issue, voice getting louder with each additional, unnecessary question and therefore getting more kids involved, is not OK.
Curiosity is OK. Badgering someone is not; making someone feel uncomfortable for the way they look is not.
We know that all Jr. Explorers, all people hopefully, can learn and grow, and understand that they will encounter people who look/act/think/dress differently than they do. Kid 2 does not have to serve as an example for Kid 1 and the view they have on what a girl or boy should look like. How people choose to look might vary from what they’re used to, and it is up to us as adults to help guide them on understanding compassion and differences.
Hopefully the people in all our kids’ everyday lives, including teachers, parents, bus drivers, babysitters and fellow kids, can help them learn to celebrate differences and to see when they are being unkind and making someone feel uncomfortable. Help them learn when curiosity is OK and when it’s time to let it go or shift the conversation.
We want to embrace and celebrate all of our kids, and want all to feel welcome. Teaching that people come in all shapes and sizes is just as important as teaching kids compassion and both can be difficult at times – but the best way to do that is to teach by example. Lead by example. And that is truly a team effort.
Here at the Junior Explorer Club, we work together to make sure we are showing compassion for one another from the staff to the kids to the workers we encounter on adventures. As seen here, our explorers are learning how to manage hurt feelings while learning new things everyday. Their minds are like a sponge and we take great pride in helping them soak up that knowledge when it comes to compassion for others. Regardless of religion or views about differences, we can all agree that everyone deserves to feel loved and respected.
Is my kid too young to talk about this?
Kids are never too young to learn about and witness compassion! And they are never too young to learn that people look different, have different values and religions, dress differently, prefer to wear their hair a way they like – just as they themselves prefer to present themselves to the world a certain way. Many experts say kids are ready to discuss gender and gender identity as early as toddlerhood, and there are several notable children’s books that can help open discussions at home as we work to teach kids about acceptance and diversity.
Some additional resources:
A good overview of gender identity development from The American Academy of Pediatrics: <<link:
It is important to make sure our schools are inclusive: <<link: https://www.npr.org/2018/10/26/659571443/5-ways-to-make-classrooms-more-inclusive>>
Talking to kids about gender doesn’t have to be hard or uncomfortable: <<link: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/its-not-that-hard-talking-to-children-about-gender_n_5899f3b0e4b0985224db5a3f>>