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3/20/24 blog post

teaching kids polite ways to acknowledge uniqueness

how to start the conversation about uniqueness with inquisitive kids

group of diverse children at the water park

The beauty of our world is that each person is unique and noticing what makes us different is natural.  We all have something that sets us apart from each other, some of which are visible and some that are invisible. For kids who are just learning how to navigate social situations, they may look to how we respond to unique differences in order to learn how they should act or react. 

When our kids ask out loud or point out another person’s unique features, it may be our first reaction to feel embarrassed and shut them down. Kids are inquisitive and we can use that moment as an opportunity to have a conversation about what makes us all unique! 

starting the conversation about differences 

  1. When you're are in a moment that your child notices that something about another person, here are some quick tips for reacting to the situation. Acknowledge the observation with your child Communicate that it is okay to notice differences.  
  2. Teach polite ways to observe differences. Offer options instead of pointing and staring, try offering a wave and smile.  
  3. Find a way to focus on the similarities. This can build a connection between your child and others. Are you both wearing the same color? Is it another little boy or girl like them? What makes us unique and what makes us similar?  
  4. Remember that true acceptance of each other’s unique qualities means that we should accept people for who they are. Reinforce that it is a good thing that we are all different!  

let’s practice celebrating uniqueness with scenarios! 

Here are some common examples your child may encounter or have questions about! The responses are just examples of ways to use the key tips above. They are not a perfect script of what you might say every single time!  

physical and visual uniqueness

Scenario 1: You are grocery shopping at the store with your kids and pass another kid with a prosthetic leg. Your child points and yells loudly, “Look! That kid has a cool robot leg! Can I get one too mommy?!” 

Response: “They do have a cool leg! Some people walk on two legs and other people might need a leg called a prosthetic leg to help them to walk. When we see someone who uses a prosthetic leg, we can just smile and wave. Did you see that he has on a Pokémon shirt just like you?

Scenario 2:  You are waiting in the waiting room for your child’s speech therapy appointment. There are many children in the waiting room who are there for different types of therapy. Your child points to an older child who is wearing a diaper and uses a device to communicate. Your child says “That’s a big baby! Why is that baby so big? He looks like a big kid but he still wears a diaper so he must be a baby.” 

Response: “Not everyone uses the potty at the same time, that does not make them a baby. Sometimes kids need a longer time to learn things and sometimes due to medical reasons, they are not able to do things the same way you do. We can just smile and wave to show we are friendly!” 

Scenario 3: You are at the library with your children looking for books to borrow. Your child points to a book with many different people on the cover and asks, “Why do some people have different skin color than others? Why is that person’s eyes shaped like that? How come I can’t get my hair to look like that?” 

Response: “We are all special and unique in our own way. Some people have brown skin, and some people have peach skin. Some people have blue eyes, and some people have brown eyes. That is what makes our world a fun and exciting place!” 

financial and material uniqueness

Scenario 1: Your child has a playdate at a new friend’s house. Their friend’s house is much bigger than yours and has a pool in the backyard. When your child comes home, they ask you, “Why can’t we get a pool? I want our house to be bigger like my friends. Then I wouldn’t have to share a room with my brother. Can we move?” 

Response: Wow! It sounds like you had a great time at your friend’s house. Isn’t it so cool how many different types of houses there are? Some people live in an apartment, some people live with other family members, some people live in a smaller house, and others live in a really big house! It is okay to notice these differences and talk to me about them. It would be cool if we could have a pool and everyone be able to have their own room but this is the house that we have. It is important to be grateful for the things we do have and not focus too much on the things other people have that we don’t.  

religious and cultural uniqueness

Scenario 1: Your children are playing in the backyard with their neighborhood friends. You bring out a pile of popsicles for them all to have. One of the kids explains that they can’t have a popsicle today and asks if you can help them keep track of time because they are waiting for the sun to set so they can go eat dinner at a family member’s house for Ramadan. Your child asks loudly, “What is that? Why can’t you have a popsicle like you always do? I know red is your favorite!” 

Response: “Ramadan is a religious holiday that your friend celebrates because she is Muslim.” Then you can ask your child’s friend “would you like to tell us about Ramadan?” If the friend is comfortable sharing, listen in and see if you can point out similarities between their practices and your own religious practices to help your child connect the dots. If the friend does not want to share, share what you do know about Ramadan and ask the friend if you are missing anything. You can also research it more later with your child.

Scenario: You are watching your child’s soccer game against a team that is mostly Spanish speaking and has one player on the team who uses sign language. Walking back to the car after the game your child asks you, “What language were they speaking to each other? Why were they speaking in a different language? Why was the one player using her hands and not talking?” 

Response: The other team was speaking Spanish because that is the language they know the best! It is easier for them to talk to one another in Spanish. The girl using her hands was doing “sign language.” People who have a harder time hearing or cannot hear at all are able to talk with their hands! Maybe we can learn some signs at home together.  

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Emily Weitz, BSW, LSW

Outreach Coordinator
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