8 Ways to Encourage Youth Inclusivity and Diversity
Want to help the kids in your life embrace diversity and learn to welcome everyone? True inclusion is a lifelong process. Here’s how to get started.
- Investigate your own biases and privileges. Getting acquainted with our personal blind spots is the first step to helping the kids in our lives grow up with wider eyes. If you catch yourself acting out of ignorance, fear, prejudice or unacknowledged privilege in front of younger people (or they point it out for you!), apologize and talk about what you’re can do to learn and change.
- Get curious! Create opportunities for kids to interact with many different kinds of people. Intentionally cultivate friends from different cultures. Offer to share one of your own traditions; ask if they can share one with you. Visit museums, galleries and restaurants with cross-cultural perspectives. Seek out diverse neighborhoods, schools, organizations and youth programs, like Camp Fire!
- Keep it simple! Tailor conversations to kids’ age and ability. Listen to what the child is actually asking and give simple, straight-forward answers. You may have a whole presentation on cerebral palsy ready, but they may only want to know how their friend is going to get her wheelchair up your front steps for their play date. If they need more detail than you can give, you can offer to help them find more complex answers from books, experts or knowledgable friends. Which brings us to…
- Be open to not knowing. Kids can ask hard (and blunt) questions! It’s ok to say you don’t know an answer and offer to find out together. Or to ask for some time to think before answering. Or to come back later and say you didn’t like how you answered a question and you want to try again. Model an open mind and a growth mindset, which leads to…
- Seek out multicultural media. Want the kids in your life to more about other people, cultures, and ways of living? Check your media influences: Whose stories are you seeking out? If you put your playlist on shuffle, are there tracks from lots of different perspectives or only people with backgrounds similar to yours? Diversify the books, movies, podcasts, shows, and music you share with kids so they are exposed to different stories, artists and ways of viewing the world.
- Talk about differences and similarities. And celebrate both! Make it a game to brainstorm a connection for every distinction.
- Get cultured! Encourage the kids in your life to learn about their own heritage(s). Ask questions, aid their explorations, support their journeys of self-discovery. Respecting their own cultures can lead to respecting others’. Kids who are confident of themselves and their stories don’t need to exclude or put down others.
- Stop it! Intervene when you see prejudice, discrimination and unkindness happening. It sends a clear message to kids: Intolerance will not be tolerated.