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Teaching children the concept of privileges

Maria Fernandes

We live in a world where all of us have some privileges or the other. Privileges are advantages one has and come in many forms – they could be economic, social or cultural. Privilege may come from belonging to a family that has had generations of wealth or education. Or it may even depend on skin colour, caste, family stability or gender. Privileges can be very subtle where some have easy access to admissions, jobs, promotions or even a house to rent while others face discrimination which can be overt or not so overt. These disadvantages can be related to gender, ability, being part of a minority group or even sexual orientation.

Whatever the privilege, being aware of it and appreciating it, is important. Not just for adults but for children as well. Becoming aware of privileges means creating a shift in perspective of how we see the world and teaching our children accordingly. Some people are reluctant to consider themselves privileged, as though it somehow negates their hard work and effort. However, it is only when we truthfully recognise the problems we have in our society and the way some of us benefit from them, that we can hope our children might one day see a world where we all have access to the same opportunities and are respected equally.

As we raise children, it is valuable for them to know their family and community background. Not having an idea of one’s own or other’s background and history causes unfounded prejudices and judgements. We can teach children to approach others from a place of curiosity rather than judgement.

While our society is continuing to evolve and change in a way that reflects all of us, change and evolution can sometimes happen slowly. If we want to raise children who care about social justice, then understanding and recognising privilege should become a part of family conversations. As parents, it’s our job to help describe and explain privilege to our children so they recognise the ways in which they benefit from certain social norms and the ways in which they are disadvantaged. There are conversations that you can have with your children in age appropriate ways that can encourage empathy and self-worth. This knowledge will equip them to continue the conversation as they grow, to speak out when they see injustice and fight to change the status quo.

It’s only by having these important conversations that we can hope to raise a generation of children who recognise when they benefit from privilege and when they face discrimination. When you have these discussion and point out these important social issues, your children will have the tools to understand and accept people from different backgrounds and perspectives.

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