In light of the recent tragedy in Pittsburgh, I urge you to read this post and share it with anyone who’s raising small human beings and given the opportunity to help shape their world views and consciousness.
Confront your own beliefs and biases. Be brutally honest with yourself about ways you (or your spouse) may be subtly perpetuating your own biases. Challenge yourself to become more educated and compassionate towards any group you personally feel uncomfortable with.
Be honest about our differences. Children are innocent and nothing should be off limits in terms of their curiosity. When my three year old asks me about skin color or handicaps or anything else, I try to give him the most honest (yet age appropriate) answers as possible.
Celebrate what’s not the same. When discussing differences with my son, I try to make sure I tell him things like “the world would be boring if we were all the same”. It’s important for them to see that differences are a positive thing from an early age. Their natural curiosity will lead them to ask questions- it’s a perfect opportunity for you to give them the tools of inclusion.
Use politically correct verbiage with your children. Your discernment of whether or not a slang word is offensive or not is vastly important. They will likely reiterate your language and I think that giving the wrong words is just irresponsible.
Have a zero tolerance policy in your home for prejudice. If a situation is to occur in which unsavory words are spoken in front of your child, look at it as an opportunity not to shield them, but to be the example. Let them see what it’s like to correct someone and speak your mind in front of your child. This will not only reinforce your values but also give them a blueprint to follow themselves.
Lastly and probably most importantly- don’t simply model acceptance of others- also teach them how important it is to respect themselves and be proud of who they are as individuals. By embracing the things that make themselves different and unique, they’ll be more likely to have confidence. Confident, self-assured kids become leaders and are more likely to stand up for others in adverse situations.
Here is a link to a list of books that help teach children about inclusion.