For many of us, it’s the start of a new school year! Woo hoo! Personally, I love it when my family is back on a schedule (we all function much better when we are in our routines 🙂 ). As expected, there has been a lot of “new” this year– new teachers, new classrooms, new friends, new carpool numbers, new fears, new anxieties. And with each year, I start to think about how my kids will adapt. Will they transition well? Will they remember all the things we’ve taught them – to be respectful, to be brave, to be kind, to be inclusive?
That word- inclusive. It gets thrown around rather loosely today. And it seems like everybody wants to be inclusive, but they might not have a clear idea about what it really means.
It has become one of the most important values that we teach in our house, at school, and out in the world. And I’ll tell you why.
Inclusion is so much more than just being nice. It’s an action, a behavior.
To our family, inclusion means that we surround ourselves with different. We seek out people who don’t look, think, act, or believe the same things we do. We learn from them. It means that we go out of our way to make sure everyone is welcomed and has a sense of belonging. It means that we show compassion to people with disabilities. It means that we love everyone “as is”.
What I see a lot, is parents will encourage their children to be inclusive, but they don’t actually model that behavior themselves.
I spent the early part of my life surrounded by a group of people who were just like me. Same background, same circle, same beliefs. It was all I knew and I thought it was how everyone lived.
As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve come to realize that surrounding myself with people who are the same as me, doesn’t encourage me to grow or think differently, and it definitely doesn’t spark compassion or understanding.
Sometimes I think we surround ourselves with the same people as us, because it’s just how we were raised and it’s we know. Sometimes I think we do it intentionally. And that’s rooted in one thing – fear. Fear of opening ourselves up to people that we don’t know. Fear of what others might think. But isn’t that what we are called to do in this life? Be open, be interested in others, be kind, be love, be like Jesus?
Parents, as we start a new school year, I want to encourage you to model inclusion for your children. That can look like this:
- Being open to having a diverse classroom, school, and community because you know it makes your child better, and you better.
- Asking your kid about all their friends in class, not just their besties.
- Inviting EVERYONE in class to the birthday party.
- Intentionally making playdates with children who look differently, act differently or are differently abled – not because this is the right thing to do – but because those children are awesome.
- Seeking out the other parents who are different than you and getting to know them.
And as far as how we can encourage our kids to show inclusion, we can start with these questions:
- Who in your class do you know the least about? Try to find out a special thing about them.
- Did anyone sit by themselves in class or play by themselves on the playground? Did you try to include them in your activities?
- How does it make you feel when you are lonely?
Often just by starting a dialogue, we can see them consider feelings they might not have before.
I still have a lot of work to do in this area. Our community is diverse and I love that, but I want to do so much more – but for now, the things I have direct control over are how I model inclusiveness in my life, and how my children learn from me.
Parents, let’s all intentionally try to create a community for our families that is diverse in all ways. I promise that we will become better, more intelligent, more understanding, more compassionate versions of ourselves by doing so.