Growing Up Inclusive is the topic I’ll address this coming Saturday afternoon at an event sponsored by Steinbach Neighbours for Community. How do we help children develop inclusive attitudes, so they automatically look first for what they have in common with others and are quick to appreciate and learn from the differences they discover between themselves and other people? I’ll explore some ideas gleaned from my experience as an educator, parent, and community volunteer.
I’ll look at the value of exposing children to a wide variety of experiences and people. I’ll tell some stories about what our family learned when we lived and worked on the Hopi First Nation in Arizona but I also want to give parents, teachers, coaches, grandparents, church workers and other child advocates ideas for things they can do in their own community and province to give kids a chance to see the world from new perspectives. I’ll talk about the importance of helping children take responsibility when they use speech or display actions that show disrespect for people who may be different than they are in gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, ethnicity, age, body size or ableness. I am going to tell stories about people I know who have done that with sensitivity and firmness. Children need help learning to monitor their speech and actions so they are inclusive, and we can guide them.
Who are role models for our children? It is helpful for kids to have a wide variety of adults in their lives who show them what it means to be inclusive. Their primary role models are their parents, but many other people can be examples for our children. I will talk about people who have been role models for me and my children and what I learned from them. Who are role models in the world of politics, entertainment and sports we want our children to emulate?
There is such a wonderful diversity of reading material available for children. How do we choose books that foster an attitude of open-mindedness, so our kids learn there are different kinds of families and different ways to express one’s spirituality? What sorts of literature will help them appreciate differences in sexual orientation, race and cultural practices? Can books help them understand why some people are homeless or why a person facing physical challenges has great strengths we can learn from?
I will also look at ways parents can encourage their children to develop their own individual interests, personality traits and talents regardless of what society may say they should do or be like based on their gender, age, ableness, body size or cultural background. Children whose uniqueness is appreciated will grow up to be adults who appreciate the uniqueness of others.
Finally, I will use examples from my own family to show why it is important to teach our children to be more than just witnesses to inclusive behaviour but true advocates for it.
I’ll be giving my talk Growing Up Inclusive on the second floor of the Steinbach Curling Club at 12:30 on Saturday, January 25th. I invite you to join me as we look at some of the ways we can work together to help children grow up to be accepting human beings who are active participants in making our communities places where all are welcome. There will be an opportunity for questions and answers after my talk. An interesting session is also planned for the morning with Providence College Professor Val Hiebert and lunch is included in this free event. You can learn more on the Steinbach Neighbors For Community Facebook page or website.