Discrimination can strike at a lot of different levels: racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, social class, body, bad at sports, bad at singing or dancing, unfashionable, too nerdy, too introverted, too extroverted, etc. I could keep going forever with the list.
Most teens have suffered, are suffering, and will suffer from discrimination at some point in their lives. BIPOC, LGBTQ, and youth with disabilities are the ones who are suffering the most from it.
Two important concepts to pass on to your teen(s):
1. Try to understand why people discriminate against others.
a. The people who discriminate are almost always insecure and afraid. They try to present themselves as strong people but the discrimination they impose on others is actually an expression of their weakness. If you keep in mind that the ones who are discriminating against you are weak and non-enviable, then the pressure and negativity they project on you can more easily be ignored. This is all easier said than done when you are an adolescent when the need for peer acceptance is at its peak. Still, it is important that you give your teen(s) that perspective while reinforcing the fact it is a far better idea to seek out a sense of belonging with people who share their values and demonstrate that they have good hearts.
b. Another reason young people discriminate against others is learned behavior. They were raised with those bad values and they have not had a chance to understand how evil intolerance is and how those mindsets only lead to hate, conflict, and unhappiness. They also may not have experienced the real-world consequences that espousing and expressing discrimination can invite.
2. It may be worth encouraging your teen(s) to try to talk to the people who are discriminating against them and attempt to help them understand that their behavior is causing harm. The goal is to make them understand that being different doesn’t mean being inferior or dangerous. How to do it? By spending time together doing things that they both enjoy. Finding a common activity or topic that they both enjoy is the key. Your teen will likely need your help and guidance to accomplish this goal - it’s not an easy task.
Sometimes this approach will work. Sometimes it won’t. If it works, imagine how empowering it is for your teen to be able to help someone realize that differences are wonderful, that they bring different perspectives to the world, and that we should all embrace diversity. Imagine how powerful is to know that if you can influence a peer to become more tolerant and prevent the harm that discrimination and stereotypes can cause others. If it does not work, at a minimum, your teen will have an opportunity to build their communication skills with difficult people and regardless of the outcome, may feel a sense of pride that they stood up for themselves and made an attempt at building a bridge. That will also help your teen better discern who is worth investing time and energy into, and who is better to ignore.
One of the things the participants of the Supportive Group Chats have clearly communicated with us since the inception of the program is that they love the fact that we ensure the members of a group chat belong to different geographic places within the US. They love that it gives them a different perspective on the world. We have received many testimonials from participants who reported that thanks to their group, they have become more open and more tolerant because they had a chance to be exposed to the different experiences and perspectives of others. We at Give Us The Floor are proud of the fact that our program has a profound impact on the mental well-being of the participants, along with the knowledge that our program is helping the next generation of adults to create a world with less discrimination and more tolerance.
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