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Teaching Peace

At Treehouse we have a quote on one of our walls above an art collection of works created by children from around the globe. The quote is from Mahatma Gandhi who said, “If we are to reach real peace in this world, we shall have to begin with the children.”

After the tragic events of this past weekend, parents may be asking themselves how we can teach our children about peace, race, and diversity in ways that give our children real insight into they are, who their family is, and at the same time can guide them to appreciate, value, and respect who others are.

In a post on "Psychology Today," Dr. Jane Timmons-Mitchell wrote about a CBeebies video, distributed by the BBC, which showed a number of pairs of children who appear to be about five to eight years old. The announcer asks, “How are you two different?”  "Each pair is made up children who have obvious differences," says Dr. Timmons-Mitchell. "One pair includes a girl in a wheelchair and one who is not; they say they are different in how much they like tomato sauce.  A pair of boys, wearing the same school uniform, has a difficult time coming up with differences; they comment on how they are the same. Children do not see racial differences in the same way as adults do unless they are taught to see them.”

What can parents and grandparents do to teach our children peaceful behaviors and inclusiveness? Treehouse Board member and veteran teacher, with 64 years of experience, Phyllis Savage recommends thinking outside our house and our neighborhood. “Go to cultural celebrations with your family, participate in community fairs where your children have a chance to meet friends from other cultures, and then talk with your children about similarities and differences so they learn to value both.”

Lynne Goodwin, Treehouse Director, adds that parents and grandparents can read children’s books about race, diversity, and other cultures to their children from the time they are little. She recommends “The Other Side” by Jacqueline Woodson, “The Skin I’m In” by Pat Thomas, “Yoko” by Rosemary Wells, “Amazing Grace” by Mary Hoffman, and “The Colors of Us” by Karen Katz, just to get you started.

Both Phyllis and Lynne agree that parents do a disservice to their children if they don’t prepare them for an increasingly diverse world. “Now, more than ever, parents need to make sure they are examples of being inclusive, accepting, and open to other cultures and ways of living,” says Lynne. “Teaching peace is every parent’s responsibility.”