As the debate on same sex marriages rages in the Indian courts, it’s not just the nation but the world that watches with baited breath, on what the outcome and the aftereffects are going to be. But more than this, what is really evident is that the world is a truly diverse place, and every individual has a right to live a life of dignity and safety, experience love, and joy. What role then can we as parents play in ensuring that our children who will come in to this world a decade or two down the line, don’t have to fight for basic rights but will thrive where there is mutual respect and love?! This thought plays in my mind every time I watch or read the news these days. Moving into a role at work that focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion has only made this a more pressing need for our family – how can we raise our child to be more inclusive?
Here are some ways you can help children be more inclusive:
1. Teach them about different cultures: Children should be taught about different cultures and traditions from a young age. This will help them understand and appreciate the differences between people. Truth be spoken India is a very diverse nation, isn’t it every 50 kilometers that we get to experience a different dialect, food habits and traditions? But experience shows that we are not as tolerant as that. Judgments based on caste, coloyr, backgrounds, religion, and so much more divide us. Is it because we are made to only see ourselves as superior and reject every other reality out there? It baffles me sometimes. But judgemental we are for sure. How about we be more open and revel in our variety instead? Let our children see that diversity is to be celebrated, not resisted.
2. Encourage them to make friends with people who are different from them: Encourage your child to make friends with people who are different from them. This will help them learn about different cultures and perspectives. Thanks to the cosmopolitan society most of us live in, we do get to experience social relationships with people from different categories. But look deeper – how many Muslim people do you work with? Or live in the same apartment complex as you? Have you heard of landlords rejecting renters who are single, Trans individuals, or Muslims? I’ve heard of it much too often and moreover because of the role I play in my organization. Let’s look at the behaviors we model and allow our children to observe and be better people themselves.
3. Teach them to be kind and respectful: Children should be taught to be kind and respectful to everyone, regardless of their differences. This includes being respectful of people’s beliefs, cultures, and backgrounds. There is no debate on this. The world definitely needs more people to be kind. This behavior certainly begins at home.
4. Model inclusive behavior: Children learn by example, so it is important to model inclusive behavior. This means treating everyone with kindness and respect and being open to learning about different cultures and perspectives. We can’t play dual lives where on the one hand we treat people with judgments and unfairness and expect future world citizens I.e. our children to be better individuals than us.
5. Break the biases: Do gender biased notions come from behavior that our kids are seeing around them in the home environment. Are women still seen as caregivers/cooks? Will Alexa and Siri continue to subtly ply the message that a woman (voice) will hear your command and act on it? Hard hitting if you think about it, isn’t it?
6. Talk to them about discrimination: It is important to talk to children about discrimination and how it can hurt people. This will help them understand the importance of being inclusive and standing up against discrimination. Equip them with mechanisms to deal with bullying and unkind behavior and, most importantly, not shy away from taking a stand and backing their friends when attacked. The “My what goes?” (Mera kya Jaata hai) attitude has killed far more spirits than war, I am sure!
In conclusion, helping children be more inclusive is important for creating a more accepting and diverse society. By teaching children about different cultures, encouraging them to make friends with people who are different from them, teaching them to be kind and respectful, modeling inclusive behavior, and talking to them about discrimination, we can help create a more inclusive world for everyone.
I quite enjoyed writing this post today. And it comes from the heart. As a follow up, I’ll write about some more practical ways to build inclusivity. Do come back for more. ????