This is a guest post from writer and blogger, Jennifer Landis at Mindfulness Mama.
How to Empower Your Children to Be Inclusive
Although inclusivity should always be a part of the collective conversation, it’s been picking up as a hot topic in recent months. And along with the important public conversations that need to be had, inclusivity begins at home —both with self education and with the education of those around you. Just like learning a language or a skill, it’s best to start early. That being said, it’s also never too late to focus on inclusivity in your home.
What is Inclusivity?
Inclusivity is the practice of behaviors and mindsets that include people from all walks of life, regardless of social constructs and societal differences, with a focus on respecting those experiences. It seeks to picture each of us as pieces of the human planet, not the default norm of the human race. While it’s sometimes natural to gravitate to those most like us and see ourselves as the main character of the world, this is far from the truth.
The world is filled with people of all races, ethnicities, ability levels, languages, sexualities, religions and more. And learning that doesn’t just help us be kinder to those around us, but it also serves to broaden our world view and understand our environments on a much deeper level.
Don’t Ignore Differences
Saying “I don’t see color” or “We’re all a part of the human race” may seem well intentioned, but it can also ignore the struggles, experiences and challenges others may face in their daily lives. Color is real, but we’re all different and that’s beautiful. Some people have differing ability levels, and recognizing those differences can help them access the care and support they need to live their best lives.
Your child will inevitably interact with people who are different from them. Rather than ignoring those differences or insisting that they don’t matter, allow your child to ask you questions and learn about the experiences of others. Teach them that everyone is different, and that’s more than okay.
If your child is having a hard time understanding the experiences of others, it can be helpful to encourage them to think about situations from their own perspective. Remind them that everyone has feelings, just like they do. Promoting diversity and inclusion in their social life can be a great tool for this, as it promotes personal relationships and accountability to be caring towards those around them.
Kids care about their friends and loved ones, and this can be a tool that helps them understand experiences outside of their own, both cognitively and practically.
Introduce Inclusive Content in Your Household
Books, movies and a little bit of television time can actually go a long way when it comes to educating your child about inclusion. When you expose your child to media that explores diverse topics, issues and lives, you’re not only educating them about the broader scope of experiences that surround them, but you’re encouraging them to be a better, more understanding member of society.
Reading has the power to transform worlds, and there are scores of diverse reading lists that exist with the specific purpose of educating youth on inclusion and diversity.
Do Some Legwork
If your child has friends, classmates or other loved ones with different needs and experiences, you can step up and be a support for them. If your kid makes a differently abled friend, have a conversation with that friend’s parent about their needs if you’re planning a playdate or inviting them to an activity. If your child has a classmate who follows a religion that involves dietary restrictions, make sure you’re aware and accommodating if you’re planning something that revolves around food.
While you do that important inclusivity work for their life and in your own, talk to your child and educate them about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. This way, you can lead by example.
Keep the Conversation Going
It’s important to remember that the conversation around inclusivity is one that grows, changes and evolves with your child and the world around them. Especially as your child ages and gains understanding of more complex topics, inclusivity should become a regular staple of their life education. Discussing current events, encouraging more complex reading and facilitating exploration within their own identity are great features of ongoing inclusivity that extends even beyond their teen years.
Your child will eventually grow up to be a human being living in the world. The way that you educate them within your own home and private life is what will teach them to treat those around them with the respect, care and understanding they deserve. Nobody is perfect, but doing the hard work to get your family to that place puts you more than ahead of the game.
While policy changes, world events and appropriate responses from authority structures often determine progress in the world, those things can only happen if the citizens of the world demand them. By being inclusive in your home, you’re helping to build a more inclusive global atmosphere for your own child, and for many more just like them.