Children are naturally inclusive. But the world isn't an easy one to live in. As children grow up, they may see adults in their lives using non-inclusive language. They may see television shows or YouTube videos that are discriminatory in nature. They may wonder why there's inequity in their daily life.
The best thing you can do is mindfully teach inclusivity. While it can be difficult, it's just a matter of practice.
Five Ways to Teach Inclusivity to Your Children
- Start by giving them a positive example.
Children learn by example. People aren't born to be biased or discriminatory. Most children are very open to sharing and very blind to differences. As they grow, they will find that adults are uncomfortable discussing certain topics. They may get the feeling that those topics are verboten — and that there's something bad or wrong about thinking about them. The more open, confident, and earnest you are, the better success you'll have.
- Admit that it's possible to make mistakes.
No one is perfect. Consider talking to children about times in your life when you weren't as inclusive as you thought you were, or give examples about adults who may not have thought things through. Children need to know that adults can be wrong about inclusivity, too. First, it prevents them from blaming themselves. Second, it helps them understand that if they have adults in their lives acting non-inclusively, that's not necessarily the right choice.
- Discuss examples of behavior and answer questions.
A lot of parents and teachers avoid more difficult questions about inclusivity. You shouldn't be afraid to say "I don't know; let's take a look" when there's something you don't know. But when it comes to inclusivity, there are more gray areas and fewer black-and-white answers. As you teach your children about inclusivity, model correct language (such as person-first language) and point out what people should do as much as what they shouldn't. This will empower your child to speak up and act.
- Build empathy between children and others.
Inclusivity is naturally about finding common ground. In the past, people taught children to be "blind to difference"; but that became an issue because they couldn't see the plight of others. Today, it's considered better to try to put children into the shoes of the other person and ask them to think about how they would feel. Once children can see from the viewpoint of another person, issues become much clearer.
- Bring in expert speakers.
Because inclusivity is such a difficult topic, there are people who have devoted their entire lives to studying and discussing it. Consider bringing in expert speakers who can explain inclusivity on a professional level. There are tutors who specialize in inclusivity and diversity, library events, and speakers who can be hired by schools. These speakers can also teach you more about how you can approach the topic.
When teaching inclusivity, it's important to note your own biases. Everyone has them. By exploring them openly with children, you can encourage them to do the same.