Differences are a great strength. You just have to stop being afraid of them

Family time
How not to be afraid of differences and diversity (Emma Tin/unsplash.com)
How not to be afraid of differences and diversity (Emma Tin/unsplash.com)

Differences are not just a consequence of our conscious choices, like outfits or views on life. They are also a whole range of things that we have no or very limited control over. We belong to various ethnic groups, we are brought up in different cultures, even the family environment distinguishes us. We are short, tall, some of us like sport, others can’t be forced to go for a run. All this affects who we are and the possible combinations of different characteristics are almost infinite. That’s why we’re different and that’s why we’re all special. Doesn’t it sound like a dream come true?  

Uniqueness and affiliation

It seems that our need to belong is in conflict with our need to be unique. It is particularly strong during puberty. It makes us feel like a member of a group with which we have similarities and become more like the members of the group we want to belong to. We also tend to highlight our differences to other groups, creating conflict and division between us and them. How should we deal with it and reverse the division process? If we see that we differ within “our” group and we find similarities with the representatives of “their” group, there is a greater chance that these borders won’t be so sharp. This gives ourselves the right to differ beautifully and benefit from it, because, as the bard said: “It’s a great shame to lose a nobly different friend”.   

Right to individuality

It’s worth being aware of what distinguishes us, of our individuality and our right to it. We may like the same clothes or colours, and not like the same cuisine or listen to the same music. It’s good to be different. Thanks to this, the whole world maintains diversity. Differences can give rise to conflicts, but also to innovative solutions. Not being content with the existing state of affairs is what development comes from.  

How are we different?   

The children look at each other. They’re interested in their bodies. They start to compare themselves with others. They see their own individuality. Sometimes, they are proud of it. Sometimes, they envy the way someone looks. But, is that the most important thing? Talk about what’s worth paying attention to.  

What do I look like?   

Stand in front of a mirror or prepare small mirrors for everyone. Tell the members of your household to look at their faces. You can ask your child to complete the following sentences:  

1. My eyes are (colour, size)...  

2. My hair is (colour, length)...  

3. My nose is (size, shape)...  

4. My lips are (size, colour)...  

Talk to your child about the value of diversity. You can use the following questions:  

1. Are there people in our family whose faces look the same as mine?  

2. Who am I most similar to? What’s cool about having such ears/mouth/nose?  

3. What would happen if everyone had the same eyes, noses, hair?  

4. Would you like to live in a world where everyone is the same?  

Remember that, saying the child is “the splitting image of mum/dad”, just because they have the same hair colour and a dimple in their chin, can lead to excessive generalisations and prevent the child from building their own identity and individuality.  


A lottery. How we react to the same things   

We are different. We have different needs and desires. We can react to stimuli or situations in different ways. Try to get to know each other better by answering lottery ticket questions. Prepare a bag with tickets. Each of you draws one or more ticket(s). Then, read out what you got and everyone answers the question. You can try to guess what the person will say beforehand.  

Example tickets:  

Imagine that you won a voucher:  

– for one of the available attractions in the amusement park. What will you choose?  

– for a book. What kind of book will you choose?  

– for a scoop of ice cream. What flavour will you choose?  

– for one toy from the toy shop. What will you choose?  

– for shopping in the sports shop. What will you choose?  

This task shows that everyone makes different choices and that everyone has different needs. However, they are equally important and knowing our family members well can help us live together and give each other small and greater joys. If you have older children, you can simply talk to them about their needs and choices. It can be very revealing!  

We differ not only visually  

It’s worth helping the child understand that we differ not only in terms of appearance, but also in terms of our imagination, our approach to life and values. These determine our actions. How can you help your child realise what they like and what is important to them? For example, you can talk to children about what they enjoy from an early age. The topic may be activities that we enjoy, things which we’re good at or things which are difficult for us. Ask them what they would like to be in the future and widen the scope of decisions they make. Respecting even minor decisions your child makes, will make it easier for them to continue acting by their own rules instead of conforming with the prevailing trends and to oppose the compulsion to adapt to the group. 

Our attention and agreement to the child having their own needs and opinions will help them remain authentic. It will also help them understand that being different is beautiful and valuable. What would we do if everyone looked, thought and acted the same? Being different can be curious and inspiring. Paradoxically, we can attract people with our otherness, especially those who share our interests and values. 


All source materials are prepared by the team of Kulczyk Foundation’s Education Department in cooperation with teachers and experts – pedagogists, psychologists and cultural experts – and verified by an experienced family therapist Kamila Becker. Kinga Kuszak, PhD, Professor of Adam Mickiewicz University, Faculty of Educational Studies, provides content-related supervision over Kulczyk Foundation’s educational materials. All materials are covered by the content patronage of the Faculty of Educational Studies of Adam Mickiewicz University.

The article was published on 21.05.2020 on the website of Instytut Dobrego Życia (Good Life Institute)

Authors: Dorota Szkodzińska (Kulczyk Foundation) and Anna Woźniak (Instytut Dobrego Życia)