Inclusivity is the practice of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for groups of people who are typically marginalized for having physical or mental disabilities or belonging to a minority group. Not just some buzzword, inclusivity is a valuable practice for every family and household – here are five ways to encourage the practice today.
1. Teach Your Child to Advocate for Inclusion
Explain to your child that the opposite of inclusion is exclusion. Socially excluding someone from society can be detrimental to their well-being, harming them emotionally and all the way to their academic performance. The primary means of socially excluding someone from society is through bullying. Cyberbullying is particularly prevalent among children, as well as in-person bullying.
Empower your child to advocate against exclusive behaviors and give them the courage to speak up and say “no” or get an adult’s help. When your child objects to bullying or exclusive behaviors, they show the power of inclusion and a world where all are accepted. Chances are good, if your child stands up to bullying, additional children will feel empowered to stand up to exclusive behaviors too.
2. Model Compassion and Empathy
Encourage your child to support other’s unique personalities by fostering their special hobbies and interests. Tell your child that everyone has something exceptional to offer the world. Recognizing the uniqueness of themselves and others will make it much easier to encourage inclusion.
With that thought in mind, help your child understand what constitutes a healthy friendship: like acceptance, honesty, and mutual support. An “in-crowd,” however appealing it might sound, is not inclusive, nor is it the basis for a solid friend group. Encourage your child instead to focus on values like respect, kindness, and empathy when seeking new friends.
Perhaps your child sees a visually impaired student playing alone on playground equipment designed specifically for inclusivity. Motivate them to reach out to the other child and play together, even if it’s in a way they’re not used to. Have them invite the child back to play with their larger group of friends. This is an excellent way for your child to show kindness and respect, and it’s an excellent way for them to make a new friend at school.
3. Allow Your Child to Notice Diversity
Children are observant creatures prone to notice differences. When your child points out the distinction between themselves and the other child in the room, don’t stop them from observing. Preventing your child from noticing the diversity between people prevents them from later being inclusive. So, allow them to observe, even if it may make you uncomfortable. Do, however, correct their language, if needed, when they see a child and start to make observations.
Let’s say your child encounters another child who’s a wheelchair user. The child who uses a wheelchair is much more than their wheelchair. The child has an entire personality, interests, and hopes for the future. The wheelchair is just how they get around. Help your child understand that fact by pointing out similarities between your child and the other child.
Say things like, “Look. They’re wearing a ‘Paw Patrol’ shirt. I bet they love the show as much as you.” Or “Look at their backpack – they have a LEGO pin on it.” After making those connections with your child, encourage them to reach out and ask them to play. When you enable similarities after you allow your child to notice diversity, inclusion follows naturally.
4. Check Your Diversity Deficits
As a parent, it’s up to you to model inclusivity in your household. That’s a tall order, but not impossible. First, do a mental check-in. How often do you interact with people who don’t look like you? Do you have friends from different races or religions? Do you find yourself making judgments and maintaining stereotypes?
If you’re not happy with some of your answers here, that’s okay. There’s always room to grow and change! Be prepared to do a bit of mental shifting if you want your child to be inclusive and follow your lead.
If you found through your mental check-in that all your friends look like you, encourage various playdates for your child. You can take your child to the park and allow them to occur naturally or set up playdates with children at day care or school. Through these social connections, you will likely make connections with the parents as well. While your children play, try to get to know the parents, and in time you may find friendships developing.
5. Read Inclusive Books With Your Child
Cultivate a collection of children’s literature to explore themes like race, diversity, ability, and inclusion. Reading with your child provides a great time to connect one on one to unpack and discuss these more profound messages.
Some great titles include “It’s Okay to Be Different” by Todd Parr, “Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race” by Margot Lee Shetterly and Laura Freeman, and “This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids From Around the World” by Matt Lamothe.
Inclusivity and Your Family
Practicing inclusivity is an ongoing process – it takes time and practice. Start today with any one of these tips, and you’ll be on your way to having a more inclusive family.
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