I was recently sitting at one of my son’s baseball games and noticed my youngest trying to play with a group of slightly older children. For several weeks, he had been working up the courage to ask to play “Red Light/Green Light” with them. As I watched him on the edge of the game, I was wishing for a child to invite him in. It never happened, and I was crushed.
It made me think and reconsider how I, as a parent, can better raise my children to be Includers – someone who sees other kids on the edge of the game and invites them in, or sees the new kid in school walk into the lunchroom and invites them to their table or game at recess. Being an Includer is a skill that kids can carry on with them as adults.
Some kids are natural Includers – they can see kids standing alone and ask for them to join. There are other kids who need to be taught how to include others. My daughter, for example, is as sweet and kind as they come. However, she also doesn’t always read every situation, and she may totally miss a kid trying to join her game—not because she is mean, but because she is a daydreamer!
Set an Example
So how do you teach kids to include others? The most important way we teach our children is by setting an example in our engagements. As adults, there are many opportunities for us to serve as Includers. When your child joins a new sports team, club, or other extracurricular activity, you may know some of the other parents, but there will always be someone who is new or doesn’t already have established relationships with other parents. Invite them to sit with you or chat with them directly. This can also apply to other school functions, clubs, or neighborhood events.
Find Teachable Moments
Another way to improve inclusion is observing how your children interact with others in new situations. If you see them playing and not including someone, use that as a teachable moment. They do not have to be “in trouble,” just gently reminded that often playing is better when we think “the more, the merrier” and that it feels good to include others! It’s important to teach your children how to include others. One recommendation by Hayley Goldberg from The Heart of Connecting is to “practice ways to invite a new kid into the group or ask others to join a game.” Sometimes, as adults, we take for granted knowing how to do things and its importance, so by highlighting these opportunities for our kids we continue to give them the tools to help them grow.
As adults, we all remember situations where we wanted to be included and all it took was someone making eye contact with you and inviting you into their conversation. It is a great feeling and giving our kids the opportunity to learn that is invaluable.
At Stride K12, making sure children feel included is a top priority. That is why we provide a variety of social opportunities for students at Stride K12-powered schools and other learners to participate in outside of their academics. Stride K12 believes it’s important for kids to feel connected and included. Check out more information on Stride K12 extracurricular activities to see if it’s the right fit for your family.