We need kids for equality because they are going to experience discrimination.
A study by UK Feminista and National Educational Union found ‘Over a third (34%) of primary school teachers say they witness gender stereotyping in their school on at least a weekly basis. Over half (54%) say they witness it on at least a termly basis.’
Here is an extract from the Show Racism the Red Card report, ‘Racist attitudes do not appear to be restricted to the young people. 31% of respondents had witnessed racist attitudes or behaviour amongst teachers and most of those interviewed had frequently encountered them.’
Young Minds says that ‘In fact, 90% of school leaders have reported an increase in the number of students experiencing anxiety or stress over the last five years.’
We would love to be able to shield kids from difficult topics such as the many inequalities in life. We can’t realistically do that. That’s not just because they see protests on the news or they hear people talking about problems. It’s because they see inequalities happen in front of them and to them. You can’t hide kids from inequality by not talking to them about it. They already see it and experience it. The above statistics prove that.
They might not be bringing it up to you because they don’t know how to even start that conversation. Even worse, they might not realise that it is wrong. As kids, we are constantly taking in the world around us without the same critical filter of adults. Kids think that’s just the way things work. They might not realise that steps can be taken towards equality.
When I was five years old, I asked my mum if I was fat because I didn’t have a flat stomach. Calling myself ugly came easily to me. I wasn’t supposed to accept compliments.
When I was thirteen, I was catcalled while walking to the shops. I didn’t know what to do or what it meant. Around the same age I overheard two boys at school having a conversation. They said that you couldn’t be raped by someone you knew. I believed them.
When I was sixteen, I had a mental breakdown because I didn’t know how to cope with the deep depression and severe anxiety I was experiencing.
Kids are introduced to difficult topics at an age younger than you may have thought. The information kids are exposed to about inequality cannot be completely controlled. What you can do is control the conversations you have with kids you care for. Explain the issues in our society to them and explain how they can cope with them.
Most importantly open up the channel of communication so if they are struggling with these problems or anything else, they feel able to come to you. We don’t instinctively know how to handle inequality. Suffering alone is not helpful. Feeling supported is.
Keep conversations comfortable. Don’t sit kids down in an intimidating way or force them to admit anything to you. Avoid coming across as making yourself talk about these topics. You should be talking naturally and honestly. The more you alienate inequality topics, the more uncomfortable they are to talk about when in reality inequality is an everyday struggle.
Conversations and understanding will get more complex over time as kids grow but the sooner you can set a foundation down, the easier these conversations will become. This is mean kids identify inequalities automatically and, in some cases, they might do something about it even just at a small level. This is what nurturing kids for equality means.
No kid should be held back by inequalities. While us adults fight to change society, kids should understand what is going on in the world around them and what they shouldn’t accept. We need kids for equality.
If you would like to read more of my writing on social change issues especially when it comes to having important conversations with kids, click on this link to sign up to my dedicated email list. I have come out with a collection of three short stories where kids overcome change and difficult emotions. Check it out HERE.