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Cultural Differences and Discrimination

How to cope when your child is affected by cross cultural issues, discrimination, or lack of acceptance.

Serious young girl looking at camera

What is culture?

Culture is the accepted norms and practices of a particular group of people.

We often notice a person’s cultural background through their language, religion, race and ethnicity and how it is expressed through things like art, music, food or literature.

Other groups of people can have different aspects of their identity in common.  For example it could be their gender, age, sexual preference, physical abilities or social status.

Cultural differences leading to discrimination and racism can have an impact on your child’s wellbeing. 

What does discrimination look like?

Discrimination experienced by children comes in many forms. Some of the most common forms of discrimination are:

Verbal and emotional abuse

Bullying and harassment

Physical abuse and violence

Racial remarks or being called insulting names

Being treated disrespectfully or unfairly by a teacher or other adult

Being treated disrespectfully or unfairly by peers

When your child faces discrimination

As a parent you can provide support to your child if they're experiencing discrimination. You can also promote acceptance of differences through your own actions. Here are some ways to help your child:

  • Raise your child with pride in their own cultural background and identity
  • Teach your child that discrimination is not okay and that it is against the law
  • Reassure them that they don’t have to deal with it alone and show that you are there to support them
  • Encourage your child to be assertive when it’s safe to do so
  • Talk positively about other cultures or groups and teach them acceptance
  • Avoid retaliation or displays of aggression in front of your child
  • Talk with them about stereotypes and actively challenge these by focusing upon the individual
  • Expose your child to multicultural experiences and diverse friendships

What is the impact of discrimination?

Discrimination is when a person is treated less favourably because of some aspect of their identity (eg. race, religion or gender). Discrimination can lead to:

  • Feelings of sadness and lack of trust
  • Isolation and exclusion
  • Anxiety and fear of being attacked verbally or physically
  • Inability to concentrate on schoolwork or homework
  • Anger and urges to retaliate
  • Reduced self-confidence, self-worth and impact on identity development

Discrimination is not ok

Australia provides laws to protect people from discrimination. Despite this, some kids are still insulted, humiliated or threatened because of their culture or some aspect of their identity.

Discrimination is illegal and you may need to alert the authorities if it cannot be resolved.

Check out these organisations for more information:

Having calm conversations with your child and getting support can help

Talking to your child about their experience of cultural discrimination can be difficult and it might bring up some emotions for you.

This content was last reviewed 10/05/2018

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