8 things to say to your child about xenophobia
Kids may be wondering why xenophobia is in the news. Here are some tips on what to say.

It’s often said that children aren’t born with hatred, and that racism (among other things) is learned from external sources, especially parents. The word “xenophobia” is tricky enough for a child to pronounce, never mind understand the concepts which define it. Since it’s all over the news, you may be finding it hard to explain what it’s all about, so here are some tips to a constructive, meaningful discussion on violence and hatred  and then restoration between people.

1.    Human beings are no different even though we're not the same, no matter what country they come from. We have the same physical make up, and, very often, similar goals and dreams. Hating someone because they are from Nigeria/Malawi/Zimbabwe and so on ignores the fact that a country is made up of individual humans.

2.    It doesn’t make sense. Children will want to know why people in South Africa are targeting people from other countries. Even with the best explanations about societal issues, history, poverty, greed and incitement, it remains senseless because it is wrong.

3.    It’s never okay to take someone’s property. Stealing is never acceptable, even if you are in a group of people doing it.

4.    Put yourself in the victim’s position. Imagine if you went to another country and a group of people stole all your things, beat you up and chased you out of the country. You would be separated from your family and you would be hungry and cold with no money and very afraid. That’s how foreign nationals feel when they are attacked in South Africa.

5.    Everyone needs to fix it. The police can help solve crimes, the legal system can ensure criminals are convicted, the government can provide humanitarian assistance, local communities can talk about accepting foreign nationals and teach everyone how to be tolerant and constructive in their relationships with their neighbours. Individuals can make friends with people from other countries and get to know more about their cultures. Businesses can ensure fair practices when it comes to hiring employees. We all have a role to play in society.

6.    Human rights are the same for all people. All humans have the right enjoy equal freedom and equality, as well as the rights to life, liberty, security, ownership of property, education, protection and food, water, access to health care, freedom from torture and cruel punishment and the right to a nationality. Talk to your child about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of South Africa. Remember, “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”

7.    Get to know about other people and don’t fear what you don’t know. You could spend time with your child learning about other African countries. Use the internet to read more about how people live in other places and try cooking regional dishes or recreating art works from other countries at home. As a parent, make friends with everyone you meet and ask them about their lives. Model kindness, friendliness and tolerance.

8.    Don’t say “us and them”. Never label all of the people from one country in a specific way: “all people from X-country are drug dealers”, for example. Not all people from any one country are rich, poor, criminals, lazy, hard-working, pretty, ugly- the list is endless.

Ultimately, the discussion will be around the topics of respect for others, tolerance and kindness. You don’t have to show your child images of individuals being harmed, but you can read up on the news and summarise it for them. Don’t go into gruesome details as a child may become scared and worried for their own safety. You could also encourage your child’s school to discuss xenophobia and how to avoid it in class and make sure the school has a strict anti-bullying policy in place.

Remember, asking your child to ask the questions is also helpful.

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

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