Just how do we teach children to include the excluded?
I imagine most of us can recall the typical classroom of our youth. We broke many groups down into parts; those considered a part of the in-crowd, those who were our friends, those who were just okay, and those who were best avoided.
Even now, many of us see this play out in our adulthood.
There are lots of reasons this occurs. Basically, we are good at finding differences. Is it behavioral differences, the way they look, their attire, or their perspectives? As humans, we are good at creating factions that separate us.
How can we instill more compassion in our children and help them help rise above these differences to be more inclusive?
We all know how it feels to be excluded. Picked last or not at all. Avoided or teased. Children are not the only ones who find this heartbreaking.
Children know the hurt of humiliation whether they can put language to it or not.
And just as this is true, they can be guided to consider others and their feelings as well.
What resolves some of this exclusivity? I believe it’s their ability to show kindness. Being kind can boost the quality of their friendships.
I’d like to offer 3 suggestions.
Teach children how to make friends. Let them practice introducing themselves to others. “Hi, my name is… what’s yours?”
Help children notice who may be off by themselves and attempt to invite them into their lives. “Would you like to…?” Hey, how about we….? (do something together)
Make “I think you’re special” cards. Help them share one quality they like about a person who may be excluded. (Maybe 2 or 3) this person. Then slip this in their book bag or mail cubby. The child may want to make this anonymous, or they may want to sign their name. Let them decide. Either way, this can be a delightful boost to the receiver and is sure to warm the heart of the giver.
It’s good to be kind. Compassion grows when we learn to be inclusive and stay aware of the feelings of others.