Hello everyone and thanks for reading along as I write. Today I want to talk about a topic close to my heart – the importance of inclusion. As an individual I am a fairly inclusive person, but after becoming a special needs parent, I value the importance of raising inclusive children even more. So on day 9 of the #blogchatterA2Z challenge – I is for Inclusive. Being inclusive is basically recognizing that people are different, respecting those differences and going a step further by appreciating being different. I wrote about disability and inclusion at length in an earlier blog.
Humanity is a big family (vasudhaiv kutumbakam) and everyone should have a place at the table, everyone has something to offer and no one should be left out. As a parent we should not only worry about whether our kid is included but more importantly who is our kid including.
Below are some tips for raising inclusive children:
- Develop self esteem: the first step to having an inclusive child is to develop his/ her own self esteem. A child should be comfortable in her own skin and in her own differences from the rest of the world. She should understand that not everyone would look, sound or think like her. Moreover, a high self esteem will help a child take a stand and not succumb to peer pressure. Many times exclusion happens because the so called hip children or the bullies in the school decide to exclude certain kids. Most other kids do not have the courage to go against that. A child with high self esteem and courage of conviction can be an upstander who is brave enough to stand up for others.
- Encourage empathy: as I mentioned in my blog on empathy – it is the ability to step into someone else’s shoes. True inclusion can only come when you are able to understand what the other may feel and reach out to them.
- Examine your own prejudices: we may not recognize them, but many of us will have hidden (or obvious) prejudices – against colour, caste, region, religion, sexual orientation – anything. Our children’s world is becoming a more and more polarized place with people’s hidden biases coming to the fore. Hence, examine your own biases, upbringing and your parents’ prejudices and ensure you do not pass them on to your children. We need to be careful of our language and behavior at all times.
- Celebrate differences: expose your child to different cultures, people, thinking. Encourage them to move out of their comfort zone and befriend people from different cultures, religions, races and gender. It will broaden their horizon, help them gain perspective and build tolerance towards differences. One of the best aspects of our move to Almaty is that my son now studies with children of different nationalities and cultures. I am really happy that he has adjusted very quickly and is thriving in that environment.
- Answer questions: children are bound to be curious about people who seem different to them. Do not feel awkward about that, instead explain the differences to them as clearly as possible. “why does that child walk in such a weird manner?” you can explain that the child has a certain disability. “why does that old lady sit in a chair all day and drool?” you can explain that she is old and sometimes people lose some control as they grow old. “eww, his food smells so weird!!” explain that people from different countries use different spices which taste and smell differently. “Momma I saw two men kissing!” tell them that sometimes people of the same sex also love each other. Give them direct, honest responses. After explaining to your children, encourage them to go and talk with people who they think are different from them.
- Talk about exclusion: let children understand that exclusion happens – sometimes by design and sometimes inadvertently. Tell them to be extra sensitive to people who they feel are excluded. Encourage them to reach out in such cases. I remember as a kid, at the beginning of every school year, I would keep an eye out for any new kid feeling out of place and go talk them and make them feel comfortable.
Finally remember that children are more open and tolerant than any of us adults. Intolerance is not inborn, it is learnt. Hence careful parenting can ensure that your kids are empathetic and inclusive. I hope you found some of these tips useful. Do let me know via your comments.
Read my other blogs on the series here: