In the world we live in today I know you will find these 5 Ways to Teach Your kids to advocate for Inclusion will lend a helping hand.
As a parent, you want your kids to grow up to be confident, compassionate and self-sufficient. Teaching kids how to stand up for those around them makes them better people, but it can be challenging to know how to start.
Talking about disabilities and diversity can feel tricky. Maybe you want your child to learn, but you feel almost as ignorant on the subject. Relieve some of the pressure up front by admitting you don’t have all the answers and work together to learn new things and discover how to be good advocates for inclusion. If you’re struggling with where to start, we’ve come up with a handful of ideas.
1. Give Them the Right Language
Words can be cruel, and there’ve been plenty of unkind ways to talk about people of different abilities over the years. Teach your kids to put the person first, such as “a girl in my class who uses a wheelchair” instead of “a handicapped girl in my class.” Also, refrain from referring to people with disabilities as victims or “less than” those without disabilities.
Part of advocating for inclusion is speaking up for those around you but doing so in a way that respects them and their wishes. Advocates should always ask before disclosing information about someone’s abilities. They may not want details about them shared.
With all of this in mind, one of the best ways kids can stand up for their peers is to say something when other kids use derogatory words when talking to or about people with disabilities. Not joining in with the others is a start, but a true advocate will talk to an adult about the incident or tell the bullies their words are unkind.
2. Embrace Our Differences
The most beautiful thing about the world we live in is that no two people are the same. We have different personalities, eye colors, skin tones, backgrounds and abilities. The world would be quite dull if everyone thought, acted and looked one way. Diversity is beautiful.
When teaching your kids about diversity and inclusion, don’t shy away from discussing differences. They exist, and kids notice them. Point out how differences are what serve to make us unique.
Advocates must be prepared to ask for changes that will help reconcile differences and bring everyone together. For school-age kids, this might look like helping raise funds to add playground equipment everyone can use, with different types of swings and slides along with fun ground-level activities that don’t require climbing.
3. Emphasize Our Similarities
While our differences make us unique and special, our similarities bring us together. We are all humans and have the need to be loved and accepted for who we are. Focusing only on our differences keeps us apart and leads to bullying and exclusion.
Help your child to celebrate differences but also to find common ground with their peers. As they grow, they’ll learn to value the inside of a person much more than the exterior. They’ll also be able to find similarities between themselves and peers of different abilities.
Advocating for kids with disabilities might be as simple as finding common interests and asking them to join in those activities.
4. Look for Answers Together
Kids are naturally curious and will ask you loads of questions once you start teaching them about diversity and inclusion. Inevitably, they’ll think of something you don’t know the answer to, and that’s perfectly okay. You don’t need to have all the answers, but you should know where to get them.
Work together to find the answers to your burning questions. Look for reliable sources on the internet or at your local library. If your child wants to know more about a specific disability so they can advocate for a friend, talking to that friend might be the best start. Learning about someone with disabilities will help them become a better advocate, better friend and a more well-rounded person.
5. Bring Diversity Into Your Home
All people tend to fear the unknown, and children aren’t great at hiding it. Long-term exposure at home can help prevent your kids from acting out of fear toward peers with disabilities.
Having a diverse library in your house for kids to choose from is a great start. Reading books that include children with disabilities will open the line of communication about disabilities, answer questions that pop up and help your kids see people with disabilities aren’t so different from themselves.
Set an Example
The best way to teach your kids to advocate for inclusion is to be an advocate yourself. Let them “catch” you standing up for what’s right. Use your words wisely, learn about unfamiliar topics, treat your peers of abilities with the same respect and expose yourself to positive, inclusive media.
Your kids will watch how you talk to and about people with disabilities and will likely mirror your behavior. So, if you want your children to be advocates, you’ll want to practice what you preach.
Ava Roman (she/her) (Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest) is the Managing Editor of Revivalist, a women’s lifestyle magazine that empowers women to live their most authentic life. When Ava is not writing you’ll find her in a yoga class, advocating for body positivity, whipping up something delicious in the kitchen, or smashing the patriarchy.
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