We're Jewish and my 8-year-old son's best friend is Arab American. Recently my son came home in tears because his other Jewish friends told him that they couldn't be friends with Ayad because all Arabs hate Jews and Jews should hate Arabs. What should I say?
First of all, acknowledge how confusing this situation must be for your child. Help him understand that he is free to choose his own friends and that his other friends have no right to dictate his choices. You can talk with him in a general way about how individuals can be friends despite conflicts that might exist between the cultural groups to which they belong. Encourage your son to identify what he likes about his friend and to continue to see him as an individual and not as a representative of a group. If your son knows other Arab American children, ask him how Ayad is like them and not like them. You can also do this with other members of racial or ethnic groups, including how Ayad is similar to and different from his Jewish friends.