6 Ways to Encourage Inclusivity in Your Family

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Photo: Erin Song via Unsplash

Inclusivity can mean a number of different things. Usually, it refers to including and considering those who are often excluded or marginalized—this can involve sexuality, gender, race, religion, ethnicity, and varying levels of ability. Ensuring inclusive environments makes the world a better place for everyone on a personal, intellectual and even professional level by ensuring that everyone feels welcome. Often, inclusivity is discussed in workplaces, schools, organizations and other public spaces, but it’s also important to teach inclusivity within your family and your household.

Being a good citizen in the world begins with the lessons you learn at home, and while your home is a more comfortable and relaxed place—perhaps with a more homogeneous mix of people than the world at large—it’s still important to teach inclusivity in your family so you can fully embrace the differences within your own household and in your community at large.

You never know where your inclusivity could really make a difference—from your child who could be exploring their identity knowing that they’ll come out to an accepting and loving support system, to guests in your home, to the people you encounter every day in the world. People come from all different backgrounds and experiences, and while you don’t have to know all the answers, making an effort to inform and educate yourself and your family can go a long way. If you’re looking to encourage more inclusivity in your household, here are a few ways to do it.

1. Surround Your Family with Diverse People

While the idea of being “colorblind” or “not noticing disability” might be nice at first, it can actually do more harm than good. People are different, and that’s beautiful. Making an effort to engage in activities and participate in inclusive spaces can expose your family to all different experiences. Looking for schools, activities, and social circles with people of different backgrounds and experiences can normalize variation and diversity for your kids, and even for you.

2. Encourage Empathy

One of the key points of inclusivity is thinking and acting with empathy. While diversity is about the presence of people of different backgrounds and experiences, inclusivity involves making the effort to understand their experiences, and empathy is an integral part of that action. While it’s impossible to understand the exact feelings associated with someone else’s experiences, even encouraging your kids or family to think from the perspective of others can be a great exercise in empathizing with someone of different backgrounds from your own.

3. Allow for Questions

Inclusivity isn’t just about normalization and diversity, either. It’s also about understanding and treating people like human beings who deserve respect. As long as questions are posed in a respectful manner and you’re prepared to listen, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with them. Asking someone what their experience is like adjusting to life in a wheelchair, celebrating different holidays or growing up in another country isn’t rude.

While there is a boundary between asking questions to understand someone’s experience and expecting someone to take on the emotional labor of educating you, the key is often honesty and respect. If your kids have questions you know the answer to, you can always educate them, too.

4. Model Good Behavior

You can’t expect your family to walk the walk if all you do is talk the talk. One of the best ways to teach inclusivity and encourage it in your household is to live a more inclusive lifest‌yle yourself. Support organizations, policies, and even politics that encourage inclusivity throughout the world. Spend time with people of various backgrounds and experiences and let your kids and family see. Sometimes, the best way to encourage inclusivity is simply by living it.

5. Prioritize Representation in Media & Books

Another avenue in which diversity and inclusivity is highly important is the media your family consumes. The kinds of people we see represented in films, shows, and books often shape our opinions and experiences within the world, and it’s important to use them as tools towards being more informed people. Try to read more inclusive literature and consume media that features all kinds of people. You may learn a lot from it.

6. Go the Extra Mile to Make Accommodations

Inclusivity is often about making the accommodations people need in order to make them feel welcome and comfortable. Many systems are set up specifically to cater to those in more privileged positions without regard to the needs of others, and advocating for more inclusivity often involves advocating for the accommodations necessary for people of different experiences and ability levels.

If your child has a friend or classmate who has a different diet because of religious reasons, needs physical accommodations, or has any other requirements, advocating on their behalf in public spaces and making sure they’re comfortable in your home can be really meaningful. It can make their experience better and model that behavior for your family, too.

In order to create a more inclusive world, change needs to start at home. By encouraging inclusivity in your household, you’re encouraging inclusivity on a wider scale, too. Raising respectful, knowledgeable, and empathetic members of society begins with you, and by encouraging inclusivity at home, you’re doing your part in creating a better world for everyone.

Jennifer Landis is a mom, wife, freelance writer, and blogger. She enjoys long naps on the couch, sneaking spoonfuls of peanut butter when her kid's not looking, and binge watching Doctor Who while her kid's asleep.  She really does like her kid, though, she promises. Find her on Twitter @JenniferELandis.