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.