Why Inclusivity Matters And How To Share It With Your Children
One of the best things about modern society is our ability to interact with diverse people groups. Today, people of all different races, genders, religions, sexualities, and abilities come together to share communities, schools, places of worship and many other aspects of life. While this diversity does wonders at promoting children’s growth and fostering a sense of togetherness, inclusivity is the real glue that helps kids discover these benefits.
How can we teach children to accept and embrace the differences of their peers? Simply put, we do it by raising them the right way. When we teach our children the value of inclusivity, they develop empathy and compassion for others. When they reach adulthood, they carry these values with them, giving them the power to transform society.
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Why does inclusivity matter?
Inclusivity matters for many reasons. First, when tragic events occur in the world around us, inclusivity helps children make sense of such occasions without developing hateful attitudes. Different people respond to uncertainties and hardships in vastly different ways. Some shift blame to people who are unlike them to absolve themselves of responsibility. However, it prevents them from taking action to solve problems.
Part of the reason people react differently lies in their brain structure. People with a larger amygdala than others tend to respond with greater fear when faced with change. Even when adaptations prove beneficial, they resist. You can’t change your child’s amygdala. But you can discuss tragic events with them in a way that doesn’t lay blame at the feet of broad groups.
Inclusivity also teaches social skills. For example, a study revealed that children with disabilities often struggle with social development because they feel left out when other children play. You can help combat this by encouraging your children to include those with physical or mental disabilities at recess and in the park. Finally, inclusivity teaches empathy. Empathy allows children to imagine how another person thinks, feels and lives. Compassionate understanding encourages children to go a step further — to take action to help others in any way possible.
Tips for sharing inclusivity with your children
How can you foster inclusivity in your children? Embrace the following behaviors:
- Evaluate your own biases. When you go to the park with your child, who do you encourage them to play with? Who do they see you speaking with? Are you surrounded by other moms who resemble you? Or do you take time to chat with the mother wearing a hijab? The woman who uses a walker for balance?
- Talk about diversity. When you read or see something on TV that inspires curiosity about those of different backgrounds in your child, turn these into teachable moments. Talk about what makes them different from the person or character they saw — and, more importantly, what makes them the same.
- Read books featuring a wide range of protagonists. Children’s books often feature cute animal protagonists, but not all do. Do you encourage your child to read stories featuring a protagonist in a wheelchair? Picture books such as “Lovely” feature a wide range of characters, some of whom don’t conform to traditional gender norms.
- Expose children to those of different backgrounds. Encourage children to play with those who look different than they do. Kids absorb new languages quickly because they don’t fear mistakes. Instead of discouraging friendships where language barriers exist, make it a learning activity to communicate with those who speak a different language together.
- Teach children how to include others. Model appropriate behavior, as children learn through imitation. If your child is shy, for example, approach a child playing by themselves, together, and help them ask to join them.
- Discuss how being left out feels. Children who can identify their feelings demonstrate more empathy toward others. Teach your kids how to identify their feelings, then ask how they’d feel in hypothetical situations. For example, “How would you feel if nobody sat with you in the cafeteria at lunch,” can serve as a discussion starter about inclusion.
- Reward inclusive behavior. Rewards influence behavior more than punishment. Praise your children when they exhibit patience toward a friend with autism who needs time to themselves to manage their senses.
- Continue reinforcing lessons throughout life. Inclusion isn’t a lesson you teach once, then ignore. As your children develop, continue to seek out opportunities for them to connect with others of different backgrounds and those with physical and mental challenges. When children reach an age where they understand world events, discuss these topics through a lens of inclusivity.
Raising inclusive kids
If we’re to create a kinder and more compassionate world, we must begin teaching inclusivity when our children are young. Doing so helps them develop healthfully and instills attitudes and ideals that will eventually help transform society.
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