Inclusion. Acceptance. What does this really mean to a kid? I believe that true inclusion and acceptance can't happen unless we talk about celebrating differences. Our kids always hear us say “being different is good.” But, then we use stereotypes or identify differences as weaknesses when we talk about other people.
I've created a bit of my own script when I'm talking to my kids about acceptance, inclusion, and differences. This script contains two pieces. (1) Celebrating differences as strengths and accepting another's truth, and (2) Uniqueness is special since no one on the planet is the same.
(1) Celebrating differences as strengths and accepting another's truth
I believe celebrating differences means celebrating uniqueness. If we instead take the position that our differences are our strengths and should be celebrated rather than ridiculed, then our kids are given the tools to appreciate anyone and everyone.
However, like many topics covered on this blog, it's hard to talk to kids about differences because there are SO many ways to BE different - gender, skin, hair, religion, the clothes we wear, how we express ourselves, our interests, our families, how we learn, our socioeconomic status…the list goes on and on.
I've been working hard with my kids to flip the script from noticing and commenting on differences, to noticing and accepting people for whatever is true for them. It goes beyond just accepting differences. It's about accepting all people and THEIR truth, however they decide to define that truth.
Their truth may be how they define their gender, their beliefs, their religion, their family, or what they need to learn, wear, or buy. We observe. We notice. We may ask questions to learn more. But, we always accept. Because it is THEIR truth, and not ours.
(2) Uniqueness is special since no one on the planet is the same
I also use a scientific script to talk about differences with my kids. I use this especially when they are feeling down, low on self-esteem, or particularly judgmental of themselves. Nope - I'm definitely not a scientist. But, I do find it helpful to deal in facts with my kids. It's a little harder for them to argue with it!
Here's part of what I say to them:
There are more than 7.5 billion people in the world with unique DNA. And, yes - for those that are counting, I did account for the roughly 23 million identical twins in the world.
DNA is the blueprint or the map for a human being. Or any living thing really. It’s how our body functions. It’s how our brains work. It’s who we are.
Of the 7.5 billion people in the world, there is only one person with DNA like yours. One person. For your kids, there is only one person with their DNA. Your DNA makes you special, different, YOU.
What's more - your DNA plus your life experiences creates your truth. How you decide to live your life, your beliefs, your values, your interests. It's all you. And, it's all ok.
For kids, this starts to make sense. And, you can see them start to understand and practice empathy when they add in the life experiences bit.
Perhaps, most importantly, I found this script to be helpful to emphasize that they are each truly special because there is LITERALLY no else like them on the planet.
The two parts of this script accomplishes several things with kids:
It makes them feel special and unique themselves.
It helps them realize that their differences are natural and ok.
It promotes self-acceptance
It gives them a tool to understand how other people operate
It provides a foundation for acceptance others as they are
It supports the practice of empathy
This week's activity is all about starting (or continuing) this important conversation with your kids. You can use pieces of this script above in partnership with the books and activities included in the download to have a robust conversation about differences, acceptance, and inclusion.
I LOVE the books included in the download. I've bought each one and each has directly contributed to really important conversations with my children about how we each live our lives differently. In particular, the Barefoot Book of Children has sparked many different conversations from families to geography to religion to gender. Forget-Me-Not Beautiful Buttercup is a wonderful story about friends and being an upstander. Finally The Boy Who Grew Flowers is a completely new twist on how a person's differences are a person's truth AND their strengths.
If you are not sure how to start the conversation with your kids, grab these books. Then, use the activities in the download to continue the conversation. Finally, the scenario cards are great ways to continue to practice and role play how to include others. This week is less about a specific volunteering experience and more about building the "inclusion" and "acceptance" muscle in your kids.
Check out this blog on how to talk to your kids about hard topics for additional inspiration. If you are still not sure how to tackle this, I've also created a roadmap for all of the Summer of Kindness activities to walk you through step by step.
I'd love to hear how you talk about inclusion with your kids. What resources do you recommend?