By Brooke Skipper, LCSW – June 15, 2022 –
Most of us are familiar with the unpleasant feeling of being excluded. In order to raise children who celebrate diversity and include others, we need to be comfortable starting conversations about differences.
These conversations don’t have to be scary! Children are innately open-minded and seek honest answers out of curiosity. They don’t feel discomfort about differences unless we portray a discomfort to them.
If your child points out differences or questions you about them, take time to pause and have a positive conversation that explains diversity and the value of all people.
Our individual gifts and challenges come in many different forms. We need to demonstrate this is not only okay, but something to celebrate. By doing so, we can model self-acceptance and peer acceptance.
Here are some tips for teaching your child to be more inclusive.
- Confront your own biases and be comfortable challenging them. Conscious or unconscious, we all have biases. These can come from our parents, our upbringings, and our experiences in the world. Acknowledging they exist and working to overcome them is a crucial step to ensuring we do not pass down negative biases to our children.
- Model inclusive behavior. Children are always watching, listening, and learning. Make sure the behavior you are projecting is the behavior you desire your children to emulate at home, school, and in the community. Celebrate diversity, use respectful language, and treat everyone with kindness and respect. Remember the golden rule to love your neighbor as yourself. If you live your life by this rule, your child will as well.
- Teach your child to be full of empathy and positive self-esteem. A child who feels good about who they are is more likely to be inclusive of others. Children who empathize and understand how others are feeling will be more likely to stand up for what is right.
- Talk about bullying. Once your child understands what empathy is and how to display it, make sure they know how to proactively stand up for others and report bullying behaviors to an adult in charge. Encourage them to befriend students who sit alone.
- Expose your child to diverse people and experiences. We often belong to social circles and communities of people who look like us, believe in similar things, have similar jobs and incomes, etc. Providing opportunities for your child to encounter diversity can help normalize differences and teach children there is no “one way” to be. You can do this by visiting museums, attending multi-cultural events, and reading stories that celebrate diverse characters.
Most importantly, do not shy away from the topic of differences. Be prepared to openly discuss the topic with your child in an honest, age-appropriate way.