Children don’t always act delicately when confronted with a new situation or something they’re unfamiliar with. You can remedy this reaction by preparing them ahead of time and teaching them things they may not have been knowledgeable about, such as the different disabilities people may have.
By guiding your child to a more empathetic mindset, you’re preparing them for the differences and diversities the world has to offer. Fighting against ableist beliefs early creates a kinder generation.
When you don’t have the words to say, discussing sensitive topics, such as ableism, can be difficult. However, you will need to speak to your family about disabilities to learn and grow an empathetic mindset. You can start these discussions in several ways, even when you don’t have all the answers.
1. Have Honest Discussions
Sit your children down and talk to them about disabilities. You can relate the experience of someone you know by using them as an example so kids can better understand. If you don’t have someone in your close circle with a disability, emphasize they don’t inherently make a person different — disabled people have plenty of things in common with everyone else.
You should talk to your children about why it is essential to understand and love people’s differences. Discuss how the world makes it easier for non-disabled people to get around and move forward, while things might be a little more difficult for those with disabilities. Make it clear that disability is neither a bad nor a good thing, just a difference to celebrate and appreciate. By establishing these boundaries, your children will understand that ableist statements are unwelcome.
2. Support Inclusive Places
When you support a restaurant or business that includes options for people with disabilities, both visible and invisible, you’re sending a message to your family that you care about everyone. Your family might ask why you chose to purchase from a particular company, and you can answer that it’s because they care for everyone, regardless of disability status.
For example, when choosing a place to go on vacation, you should opt for a location that supports people with disabilities. Doing so gives your money to a worthwhile business that serves all people, and you have the opportunity to demonstrate to your children how to take action for equality.
3. Turn Experiences Into Opportunities
You should never stifle the curious mind of a child. Your kid is bound to ask a question at an inappropriate time, such as pointing out someone with a visible disability in a store. How you respond to this situation can indirectly teach your child how they should view disabilities. Instead of saying something like, “That’s not nice,” you can explain what you know about the disability.
If you don’t know the answer or want to encourage more discussion, tell your child that you both can ask the person about their disability and hear it from them. If your child approaches someone and asks nicely to hear more about their wheelchair, they may talk about it. If the person says no, you have to remind your child to respect their boundaries and find the answers they seek through another source.
4. Pick Your Language Carefully
Any parent knows that children will pick up everything you say. You should use your words in a way that you wouldn’t mind your kids repeating. When speaking about any topic that requires care, you should choose your words carefully and actively use the proper terminology for what you’re describing. At some point, your kids will likely repeat the words you use, and hopefully, they’ll utilize their knowledge to educate their peers, too.
5. Use Educational Tools
Your children likely consume some form of media every day, whether through books or television. Using it for good and showing your children something educational will expose them to being more empathetic toward others and encourage learning more about people’s differences.
For example, Julia, a character with autism, was added to “Sesame Street’s” cast in 2015. With the addition of this character, the show has opened up an avenue for dialogue about autism and can teach kids directly and indirectly about the disorder.
Similarly, books can teach your children about multiple disabilities and allow you to communicate effectively with your child about a topic you may not have known much about before. Resources exist to help you better teach kids about the world and other people they may encounter.
Teach Your Children to Love Others
Education is key to cutting down ableism before it begins. If a child doesn’t understand something regarding disabilities, do your best to answer their questions and look for supplemental information and advice elsewhere. By teaching your children about the prevalence of ableism and how they can combat it, they’ll be better prepared to enter the world with kindness.