It is a topic I feel really passionate about when it comes to parenting. Living in a culturally diverse country, I feel it is utmost important to raise our boys to be both culturally aware and inclusive. I am not here to say, we are doing it perfectly, or that this is the only way to go about it. Kids, parents, lives, habits are all different. These are my thoughts and what works for us at this moment, knowing fully well how it could and might change as our kids are growing.
Be an example.
I feel begin an example is the most important part of teaching our kids inclusivity. From the minute there were born, our kids started to learn how to live in the world by observing and imitating us. The way we talk, act and react to certain situations are key as they learn everything from us. They watching us and copying our behaviours. We want to raise thoughtful, honest and loving adults therefore we check in with ourselves regularly as parents to make sure we are all of those things. Talk about others with empathy and understanding differences, are something we pay attention to at home. Parenting is one of the hardest things both of us have ever done, we are always learning and working on our skills and behaviours to be the best version of ourselves. Still, within a day or even an hour we can be perfect examples or one of the worst due to tiredness or stress. When that happens, we talk, reflect and trying to find solutions so it doesn’t occur again or at least often. We are including the kids so they learn to understand emotions better.
We want our kids to look up to us, respect us, love us and believe that we will always have the correct answer to any one of their many questions. I believe that as parents, we do not have to be perfect for our kids. Mostly because, it is simply impossible, but also because our kids won’t be perfect either and I think it is important to learn from day one. We are more relatable when we make mistakes. Honesty in every conversation helps our kids understand why we make certain decisions and make them see us as a human being who makes mistakes and learns from them. Human, who has flaws and feelings therefore I hope in the future they will be more open to embracing theirs and others mistakes and flaws and feelings. It also helps prevent lies. Although, my eldest entered a phase where he is tells lies, we know it is a development stage at this age. With attention, encourage and support we are teaching him and emphasising the importance of honesty in our family.
The way we look at empathy is a skill. A skill that needs continuous support to grow throughout childhood and early adulthood. Meeting their needs when they are tired, overwhelmed, stressed or scared with love, affection and empathy. That doesn’t mean we are overprotecting them. I think it is important for our kids to see and feel negative emotions. In fact, I want my kids to see a range of real emotions if they are to learn to read emotions properly. If and when I am upset or angry, I tell my kids why and so they learn that it is ok to have those emotions but also understanding that talking about can it helps. Teaching my kids empathy come again from modelling empathy myself. Truly listening to them when they speak, acknowledging their feelings, guessing and helping articulate how they might be feeling, and using active listening tools.
Talking about different traditions and culture.
Teaching our kids about traditions comes natural to us in a sense that me, their mother comes from a country with different set of believes to their dad. There are cultural differences which we, as parents also learnt not only to accept but nurture and cherish. Having this set up, allowed us to have open conversations about cultural differences in a level that is more suitable for our kids. Now that my 4-year-old is in school where they celebrate Chinese New Year as well as Ramadan, Christmas, there are plenty of opportunities to learn and feed their curiosity. At home we keep those conversations going and celebrate a range of holidays and traditions by cooking international cuisines or looking at maps of the world which my kids enjoy.
The books we love are Lunch at 10 Pomegranate Street by Felicita Sala and Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth’ Book by Oliver Jeffers. My personal favourite is the following from this book, “People come in many shapes, sizes and colours. We may all look different, act different and sound different……but don’t be fooled, we are all people.” All ideas mentioned in the book is just very fundamental thoughts I wanted to teach my kids and I love how directly and simply the writer touched these important issues.
Encourage acts of kindness.
Giving out positive feedback is something we practise at home. Telling my kids how proud I am, when they share their toys, don’t run away, being honest, take their dishes to the sink, is something I try not to forget and do often. I believe it is important for them to know how well they are behaving in certain situations even if they are repetitive and happening on a daily basis. Teaching our kids that helping feels good because it is simply nice for the other person but for themselves as well. Kids want to help as their build in setup. Therefore, as parents, it’s our job to nurture and guide their natural inclination to pitch in so it becomes a lifelong habit.
We love books like, Sharing a Shell which is a lovely story about learning to co-operate and how much better that makes the world than fighting and The Smartest Giant in town which is about a giant who willingly sacrifices all that he has to help others until he has nothing left, and the way that those he has helped rally around to thank him at the end. Both written by Julia Donaldson.
How do you encourage inclusivity at home? I am so interested to hear your thought on the subject.