Importance of teaching inclusivity in children.
Importance of teaching inclusivity in children.
Exclusion is a very commonly present negative aspect of society. This is true even for children. We see children being excluded around the world, be it in schools or among friends or in certain groups because of race, language, religion, disability, gender, and economic status.
It is only common knowledge that differences of any of these kinds will set a child apart from their peers of a common allegiance. This needs to stop as every child has the right to be supported in order to learn, grow and develop in their early lives till later in their lives regardless of their differences.
Inclusion begins right from a very early age, according to Merriam-Webster, to be inclusive is to be “broad in orientation or scope.” Meaning inclusion is part of thinking that the whole of humanity is a large family and understanding that everyone has a place without being excluded, marginalized, or left out.
We at Sherwood High give profound importance to garnering inclusive behavior within our classrooms and campus by engaging our children in distinct activities which focus on global cultures, music, food, customs, et cetera, as we are a school of a highly diverse student population and our focus is significantly on teaching our students to embrace the heterogeneity that our children bring with them.
We’ll see how parents can help us in doing the same, by looking at ways of teaching children to be inclusive of others in this blog.
Though guiding your child to be an inclusive and compassionate individual can prove to be a hard task, it is extremely important to teach them this in the long run. As adults, we pass our values to children every day and it is extremely essential to teach them inclusivity as eminently necessary values in life.
I’m sure we all want to raise accepting children who celebrate diversity and will feel comfortable in their own skin while still appreciating the fact that everybody does not look, talk or think as they do. These steps might help you in guiding your children on how to be inclusive.
1. Explain differences:
It might be almost instinctual to simply ignore differences and focus on the similarities. This can encourage people to feel like we are all part of one larger humanity, ignoring differences in race, religion, levels of ability, markers of identity, et cetera, but can make them feel unseen for what they actually are.
It requires more critical thought than treating everybody the same way to show equality. The first process of accepting people as they are is to learn about different people, their cultures, their customs, their language, their traditions, their food habits and not ignoring them.
Though we put it out there as simple instruction, it might be very difficult for parents to explain or answer certain hard questions that children may come up with while having trouble understanding differences between people. For example, about skin color or about abilities or even certain practices or ways of thinking and so on, learn how to answer these questions openly, appropriately, honestly according to what is appropriate to your child’s age and answering in a manner that will not give way to forming stereotypes is key.
There might be instances when your child may perceive something as not usual, so emphasize to your child that there is no such thing as “normal” or “usual” and there is no discrimination against us and them. Sometimes when children come upon socially unacceptable and inappropriate terms or language references, correct them gently and provide correct, better alternatives.
It is also not uncommon for our children to ask out loud or question about differences in public. If such behavior seems to distress another person or makes them uncomfortable, do not think twice before apologizing for your child and then positively respond to your child.
2. Emphasise similarities and find common ground:
It is also important to emphasize similarities while teaching our children about differences. Explain that although we are all very different, we are all still human and that we want to be loved and our hopes and dreams are all valued and we all feel the same emotions.
Emphasize that though our appearances, languages, backgrounds may be varied they do not define us, what defines us is the way we treat other people and our moral choices as human beings.
Fun activities and play are great ways to bring children together in order to achieve a natural flow of commonalities. For this, there are many places other than school where you can take your children, such as inclusive playgrounds, libraries, parks, Sports classes, dance studios, and any such after-school activities that can cater to diverse groups of students.
Even encouraging children to have group activities that children have a common interest in are all things you can do to help. Make it a point to enroll children in inclusive extracurriculars rather than homogeneous activities.
3. Expose children to diverse literature:
Jessica Gomes, a child psychologist says that caregivers need to inspect what kind of material kids read, be it books or other social media content. So as we always say, books are one of the best teachers there can be, and children’s literature can be one such tool that you can use to teach children inclusivity from a very young age.
Teaching children about certain topics can be tricky as we do not have a foolproof way of always making sure of sending the right message or using the right language. Luckily we have children’s books to the rescue. Books come as a great handy instrument for exploring diversity, covering rather tough subjects or topics on ethnicity, culture, race, ability, and so on.
There are also many books that depict authentic characters of varied backgrounds in very relatable situations too.
Some examples of such excellent works that celebrate differences and teach inclusivity can be “Skin Again” by Bell Hooks, “It’s Okay to Be Different” by Todd Parr, “A Day’s Work” and “Going Home” by Eve Bunting, “Same, Same But Different” by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw, “Amazing Grace” by Mary Hoffman, “The Colors of Us” by Karen Katz, etc.
4. Expand your children’s experiences and social groups:
You can normalize differences for children by exposing them to diverse experiences and people. You can teach children about cultures, languages, heritages, etc by taking them to museums, cultural institutions, by attending cultural events, even traveling to new and different places, and so on.
As parents, you can facilitate activities such as birthday parties, play dates, after school study sessions, with the goal of teaching your children inclusivity. Also, teaching children to communicate in different languages will help them break down the language barriers, when forming friendships and socializing with children outside their familiar groups.
5. Model inclusive behavior:
We come back to the same point in almost all our blogs, and this only emphasizes the absolute importance of it! This is because children learn best by observing the surrounding adults.
They are constantly learning by watching and listening to you. So always examine your personal beliefs and the way you behave around them, and make sure that your behavior promotes the same values that you would like your child to develop.
By using respectful language when talking to people of varied backgrounds, celebrating differences and avoiding stereotypes, treating all people kindly and with respect, you will teach your child to do the same.
The benefits of teaching inclusion to children are tremendous for not only your child and yourself, but for society and the world at large.
Using the simple above-mentioned tips you can teach your children the true practices of inclusivity and compassion, to aid them to grow into strong, empathetic, joyful, and kind adults.