by Ms. Karina Cesar
As the school year is beginning and our children face new environments and new challenges in different areas of their lives; have you considered how to best teach them how to be inclusive? As parents and teachers coming back from a summer break, we usually focus on establishing routines. We worry about our children having friends and about our children feeling happy in their new settings. With all this on our minds, have you taken the time to reflect on the way our community promotes inclusion and diversity, and our own role in this? As a preschool teacher and as a mother of 2 elementary ASFM students, I invite you to not only focus on setting routines, limits, independence, schedules, manners, and social skills with your children but also on talking to your children about differences, disabilities, respect, tolerance, acceptance, and inclusion. The reality is our world and our classrooms are becoming more inclusive every day; with this, we have to be aware that each member of our community is unique and understand our obligation as adults to teach our children to embrace all kinds of differences in themselves and others. en
I am passionate about inclusion and I consider myself an advocate for it in the different areas of my life (as a friend, as a mother, as a teacher, etc.) I also strongly believe that a purposefully guided social-emotional development helps our children to be inclusive and appreciate differences naturally. This starts with understanding that differences enrich our community and help each individual be a better person, and that differences complement each other and bring invaluable experiences to all of us. As parents and teachers, we have an important responsibility toward our children. We should strengthen our child’s social-emotional skills by teaching and modeling them intentionally. As our children are always observing us and what we do, we have to teach by example, and take advantage of each teachable moment that we encounter with our own children. Life lessons are great opportunities to influence our children.
I am sharing some suggestions for promoting inclusion, fostering respect & acceptance, and teaching tolerance:
- Strengthen your child’s social-emotional development especially their social awareness and relationship skills (to better understand and empathize with others)
- Reflect on your own children’s abilities and on their areas of opportunity and emphasize the similarities with other children ( particularly those with disabilities or special needs)
- Discuss inclusion awareness by reading stories and books. Our ASFM library has many options, speak to our librarians if you’re interested in checking them out.
- Be open to friendships; model acceptance and inclusion with children who have disabilities and with families from different ethnicity
- Be open to experiencing classrooms that actively promote and discuss inclusion.
- Answer your child’s questions about disabilities as openly and honestly as you can. Avoid encouraging pity toward differences.
- Use positive language, and always refer first to the person and then to his/her disability or ethnicity (ex: “girl that uses a wheelchair” or “boy with Down Syndrome”)
In my opinion, school is an important place for children to develop social-emotional skills, but the education that most makes an impact happens at home with the example that parents and caregivers give to their children. Conscientize your children by having conversations where you talk about how you can appreciate diversity and promote acceptance, tolerance, and respect. Creating an inclusive future is in our hands, as we get to raise the children that will shape the world in the coming years. Let us respond to this responsibility by acting assertively in all learning situations and modeling being advocates for inclusion.