June is Pride month, a time to celebrate diversity and support our LGBTQ+ community. Big Brothers Big Sisters believes in the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion. It is something we try to think about in everything we do. We are guided by the following principle, "We are a safe space for all youth, families, and volunteers to feel accepted and welcomed. At Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washtenaw County, we believe in the dignity and worth of all individuals. We believe that each young person deserves unconditional support and acceptance, no matter their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. We encourage any and all interested young people and potential mentors to inquire and learn more about being in a supportive, developmental mentoring relationship."
Inclusion is a lifelong process, and it is crucial for youth to learn from a young age how to be a friend and inclusive with their peers. Teaching, and practicing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion with youth, whether in the home or in the classroom, can help reduce anxiety, raise confidence, and combat prejudice. Here are a few ways that adults can help teach youth by example how to be an inclusive friend:
8 Ways to Encourage Youth Inclusivity and Diversity
1. Investigate your own biases and privileges. These words can be uncomfortable, but they don't have to be, the reality is we all end up with some level of unconscious bias. Learn what your personal "blind spots" are. If you catch yourself acting or speaking out of ignorance, prejudice, or unacknowledged privilege, apologize and learn what you can do to change and be better in the future. Here is a great tool to help you explore your own biases.
2. Get curious! Create opportunities for children to meet other children and adults from various cultures and backgrounds. Offer to share a story about your culture and tradition, and listen to them share one back. Explore museums, festivals, and restaurants of different cultures with youth to expand their horizons! This article has examples of activities for children to learn about other cultures and backgrounds.
3. Keep it simple. Use language and stories that are appropriate for children. Answer their questions and curiosities with straightforward and direct answers for them to easily understand what you are saying.
4. Be open to not knowing. It's ok if you don't know the answer to every question that youth may ask! Let them know you also don't know (and that it's ok to not know and be curious), and that you can explore finding the answer together!
5. Seek out multicultural media. What music do you listen to, books do you read, and food do you eat? Does it cross cultures, or stay in one lane? Having media sources from multiple backgrounds is an easy way to expose children and youth to new cultures!
6. Talk about differences and similarities. There are so many things to celebrate about ourselves and others, both similarities and differences!
7. Get cultured. Learn about your own heritage and talk about it with those around you!
8. Stop and intervene. When you see or hear prejudice, discrimination, or harsh language being used, step in and shut it down. This helps teach youth early that language that puts others down will not be tolerated or accepted. There are many great resources out there about how to talk to children about these difficult topics, this article goes into helpful detail about addressing harmful words directly.
Big Brothers Big Sisters help create meaningful relationships that can impact a child’s life for the better. A story was shared with our staff about how a small thing can make a huge difference in the life of a Little. A Little was so excited to explain to one of our staff members that they had “one of the best times of their lives” kicking around a soccer ball with their Big. When the staff person disclosed to the Big that the Little was excited about this interaction, the Big was very shocked! To the Big they were just playing an ordinary game of soccer, but to the Little it was an experience that they probably won’t forget. You may not always realize the difference you’re making when participating in small activities like this, but to a Little just being a friend can mean the world.
If you’re struggling with ways to connect, try incorporating the 5 Healing Gestures:
Big Brothers Big Sisters ensures that our volunteers are well equipped with the proper tools and support to start and maintain a positive relationship with their Little. A Big will be introduced to their Little by a Match Support Specialist, and they will help assist the volunteer and family with ideas for activities, or give support if any issues arise. Here are some helpful resources provided by BBBS to contribute to a purposeful relationship, specifically included are some useful tips and tricks to mentoring. For other helpful mentoring tips and resources specifically for teens, click here.
There’s always curiosity surrounding what a positive mentoring relationship looks like. When mentoring youth, the little things can go a long way and make a significant impact. Things like trying new experiences together, asking about their day, or just being a shoulder to lean on when they’re going through a rough time can make a beneficial difference to a young person. When thinking about a positive relationship, I’m sure a few good friends come to mind, and that is what a mentoring relationship should be as well.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washtenaw County is grateful to our partners in the corporate and small business community for their support. Not only do they sponsor events, like our upcoming Golf Fore Kids’ Sake fundraiser, they spread the word about our mission to employees, their families and the people they do business with in our area. This helps BBBS recruit more volunteers (otherwise known as Bigs) and make more matches for kids (otherwise known as Littles) seeking a positive adult role model in their lives.
But what do companies get out of this deal? Placement of company logos on print, website and social media campaigns, signage at events and complimentary tickets are all customary in terms of immediate recognition and gratitude. However, we believe the real benefits of partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters may be more long term...and meaningful.
Consider the framework of developmental relationships, as defined by the Search Institute:
Now, think about the ideal relationship a company might want to share with its employees and read that framework again. The skills our Bigs and Littles learn to cultivate in the BBBS program are research-based skills that create the foundation for productive employees and satisfied employers, not to mention wonderful human beings! Don’t just take our word for it - top worldwide employment website, Indeed, recently listed the Top 9 Qualities of a Good Employee. Look familiar? BBBS is helping create self-assured business and community leaders that can communicate, collaborate and achieve, right here in our own backyard.
The Washtenaw County business community is an integral partner in our mission to create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth. Please consider how you can get involved. Check out our Golf Fore Kids’ Sake website to learn more about becoming a sponsor or sending a foursome to golf with us at Barton Hill Country Club on Monday, May 24th. There’s many other ways to partner with BBBS, one we’re sure will fit your business and community service goals. Contact Anne Marie Venereoni for more information.
As we begin the last leg of this crazy school year. Many students are returning to in-person learning, while others will close out the school year virtually. We know that it has already been a strange and stressful year and that this transition means more change. If your child is returning to in-person we know your family may be experiencing many adjustments this week such as new bus schedules, anxiety about being around other kids again, adjusting to new schedules, and more. The youth that are remaining virtual may continue to experience social isolation and virtual burnout. No matter how your child is ending the school year, we will continue to be here to support your family and our mentors.
As part of that support we wanted to offer a few helpful tips to ease the anxiety of returning to the classroom, and the fatigue of the virtual learning process. Many of these tips apply to both in person and virtual students, but it is essential to remember that every child is different. Any effective coping strategy must begin with meeting a person where they are, regardless of their age.
3 TIPS FOR HELPING YOUR CHILD COPE WITH ANXIETY
3 TIPS FOR MANAGING SCREEN FATIGUE AND ISOLATION
We hope you found these tips helpful. Please don’t ever hesitate to reach out for support, we are here to help. Remember, at BBBS we are Bigger Together!