In today’s world parents frequently ask, “How do I help my children to become more inclusive?” This is a question that every parent should be asking because it will have huge impact on your children and their future. Below are three tips that will help you and your children to become more inclusive.
1) Be a Role Model for Inclusion:
There is no doubt that children do what they see. As their parent, you are the person your children will emulate. In the first chapter of my book, “Include ME!” I tell the story of how my son with multiple disabilities was excluded from a soccer field. A coach told us to go to Special Olympics where those with disabilities belonged. I was told my son did not belong on a field with typical kids. Unwilling to accept exclusion, I took my four year old son to the next field over where another coach was playing with his soccer team.
To make a long story short, Fernando and his team played soccer with my son. They turned his tears of agony into total elation. My son felt included. As a result, Fernando and his son started a soccer team in our town that included children of all abilities. Nineteen years later, Fernando is still coaching inclusive soccer teams. He has had an impact, not only his own son, but thousands of other children. Similar to a picture being worth a thousand words; a role model who consistently demonstrates inclusion is priceless!
2) Teach Your Children to Take the Initiative:
If I had waited for things to become more inclusive for my son, I would still be waiting. Stepping out to take initiative is risky. You become vulnerable which opens you up to being rejected. DO IT ANYWAY! For every door that closes in your face, there will be many more that will open. However, very few doors will open until you take the initiative to knock.
One of my favorite stories of taking initiative, was with a high school mentor named Jared. Jared asked me to start a rock band that was inclusive of children of all abilities. Pathways had no money, no facility to house a rock band, zero in the way of equipment, and few children that had any musical talent.
WE DID IT ANYWAY! Within 2 years, the Pathways rock band was singing on stage with the Jonas Brothers during a sound check before their concert in New Jersey. Inclusion empowers and multiplies, but you have to step out and risk failure in order to take the first step forward!
3) Expose Your Children to Diversity:
When I was growing up, my father was busy getting his doctorate. Consequently, my family lived in married student housing on college campuses. There were people of every color and nationality who lived there. My mother took us to meet the neighbors and exposed to us plenty of diversity. I ate every type of food imaginable, learned a few words in different languages, and grew to appreciate very diverse cultures. My mother taught me a lot about diversity by exposing me to it. Years later, I have done the same with my children. My mother gave me a love for inclusion and diversity through giving me every opportunity to be a part of it! Expose your children to diversity!
As a parent become intentional when it comes to teaching your child about inclusion. Look for every opportunity to daily do something to include somebody! Inclusion is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children. Including others teaches them to include themselves and to be included by others. There is never a down side to authentic inclusion!
Below share what you have done to teach your children about inclusion.
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All proceeds from the Include ME! book and donations will go toward our mission of promoting inclusion. Click below to purchase the book.