Parents worry about so many things as their kids grow up. Every parent wants their child to become smart, kind and gracious to others. Part of that means teaching them about other people they might not interact with in their daily lives. It builds their core values so they embrace compassion and understanding for experiences they haven’t had themselves.
If you’re wondering how to raise inclusive children, use these tips to get started. They’ll celebrate diversity when they learn not to be scared of it early on.
1. Model Your Behavior
Kids look up to their parents even when they don’t know it. They watch you demonstrate how to interact with others and take care of themselves at home. They need to see you be inclusive too.
Start by demonstrating simple inclusive behaviors. Hold the door open for someone in a wheelchair. Watch what you say around people from disadvantaged communities. Your child always notes what you do and will likely repeat your words and actions as they grow.
2. Explain the Differences
Children get their first opportunity to meet new people when they enter school. Your kids may meet people with learning or thinking disabilities. They might not know how to describe the differences or how they feel about them. It helps when parents step in to explain things in a way they can understand.
When your child has a question, start a healthy conversation so they learn about inclusivity with the people they know. Mention how a friend’s differences don’t define them and their disability isn’t a bad thing.
Facing something new and unknown is scary for young kids, but every child should know that differences aren’t inherently bad. Disabilities are a normal part of life and don’t make anyone less than others.
3. Encourage New Questions
Attempting to understand something new might make your child feel embarrassed or self-conscious. They could shut down and avoid mentioning those new things at all. Continuing to do this as they grow up will make them resent how differences make them feel inadequate or unsure.
Silence inhibits the growth of inclusivity. Encourage your children to ask questions when they think of them so they learn more about the beauty of diversity.
4. Point Out Inclusive Features
Your kids may not know people who are different from them if you live in a small community or rural area. While they can meet fictional characters that exhibit real differences, your kids can also learn about diversity as you point out specific features around them.
While you’re at the playground, show them the wheelchair-accessible equipment. Talk about how handicapped kids wouldn’t be able to enjoy the playground if they didn’t have the inclusive features.
Go a set further and teach your kids wheelchair-friendly games so they aren’t afraid to interact with new people. Not knowing how to hang out with those with disabilities could be the only thing standing between your child and effortless acceptance.
5. Read New Books
Books are another way kids can learn about differences at an early age. They use simple language and colorful pictures to demonstrate acceptance in action. Your child might even read along with them as they learn new words or phrases.
Consider your child’s age and look into new books to add to your nightly reading sessions. They’ll identify with the characters and take the messages to heart as they fall in love with the characters.
6. Teach Proper Vocabulary Terms
Kids already have a limited vocabulary, especially when they haven’t entered grade school or started reading. They might unknowingly use offensive terms to describe people who are different from them. Teach them not to use offensive slurs or common derogatory language like:
Ask your child how they’d like it if someone used the same words to describe them. Thinking before they speak is always smart and a useful habit for them to use in all situations as they grow up.
7. Introduce New Opportunities
Kids become more inclusive when they participate in their community. In addition to school activities and clubs, volunteer with community service programs so your children meet new people. While they plant a public garden or clean a local park, they’ll find things in common with friends with different backgrounds or disabilities.
8. Connect Their Similarities
Similarities defeat the fear of something new. When your kids meet new people, connect what they share in common. They might have the same hobbies or love the same TV shows. Friendship and understanding will blossom when everyone discovers that they’re not so different after all.
Keep the Conversation Going
These tips show how to raise inclusive children even when they’re young. Start the conversation and keep it going through the coming years. If your kids know they can always come to you with questions, they’ll have a safe place to learn and grow into accepting, compassionate adults.