By sheer definition, as defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary, the word inclusion means “the act of including,” and to add on to that, “the act or practice of including and accommodating people who have historically been excluded.” Teaching inclusion to our children is so important, and it should start at home.
It seems so simple that if we live by the golden rule, “treat others as you would like to be treated,” all would be included in all the things. But, sadly, that isn’t the reality that we and our children face today. In light of recent events in these past few months, it is clear that we aren’t living by that golden rule. That some are not included and treated fairly simply because they are not like the other person in various ways. Gender, race, likes or dislikes, abilities and disabilities. The list of “how we are different” can go on and on. What makes us unique is tearing us apart.
As our children head back to school, their hearts and minds heavy with all the events of the last few months, from the pandemic to the riots, it is important to teaching inclusion to our children to help them understand that instead of tearing anyone down because of their differences, we should be celebrating and learning from each other. Teaching our children how to be tolerant, empathetic and accepting of others, regardless of the color of their skin, the clothes on their backs or the skills they possess, should be a top priority.
As parents, we can…
1. Lead by example.
Our children are the best copycats out there, and they will copy the behaviors, actions and words that they see come from the people they trust the most – you, the parents. Be mindful of your thoughts, behaviors and language you may unconsciously be doing. It is never too late to grow and change.
2. Discuss what is happening in the world.
They hear the news, and they see it on social media. Our children are little sponges, and they are smart cookies. Engage them in age-appropriate conversations and hear their concerns about any events taking place that could create a growth in mindset. This could also be an opportunity for them to learn about what others are going through and how they can make a difference.
3. Travel and engage with others.
Many times, we become accustomed to what we are comfortable with and what we know, but the world is a big place. With your lead, you can immerse your children in cultures that are unlike theirs. Help them meet new people, eat new food and understand that their way isn’t the only way. What makes this world wonderful is all the differences that make it up.
4. Embrace conversation.
Children are curious about just about everything. So, when they come to you with questions about things they see or don’t understand or things they are curious about, embrace them and allow them the opportunity to share what is on their mind. Encourage them to learn, grow and advocate for opportunities to learn about others positively.
5. Be part of the solution.
We all have a choice and a voice. It is up to us, the parents, to lead our children down a path that will allow them to use their voice for good and make the right choices. Encourage them to advocate for themselves, but also for others who need it. Help them find their voice and allow them to use it for good, with empathy and respect for others.