Fostering Unity, Democracy and Inclusiveness Among Children, Youth and Families: Suggestions for Professionals

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Last month, GSE students and faculty gathered for a post-election discussion about how to foster unity, democracy, and inclusiveness in their work. Each working groups created a list of tips and suggestions, based on different age groups, for professionals in handling students, clients, and families’ reactions. Many of the suggestions work across age group categories.

Early Childhood and Childhood

  • Look for changes in behaviors, such as attendance, need for attention, or over- or under-sensitivity.
  • Realize that reactions happen at different speeds, not every child may reaction immediately.
  • Be aware that children may repeat what they hear adults say or may share things like My mommy and Daddy were crying.
  • Young children’s understanding of political change builds from the reactions of those around them. Recognize your own reactions and be prepared for reactions from children and colleagues that do not align with your own beliefs.
  • Culture and support from school administration sets the tone for interactions between and among adults and students. Creating opportunities for ongoing discussions with colleagues is important. Schools can create space to answer questions such as What would I say to a child who uses words that offend others? How can we assure that all feelings are respected and heard? How do I manage my own feelings in a variety of situations?
  • Start with emotional self-awareness and prepare for a variety of outcomes and reactions from students.

Adolescence

  • Be mindful of the issues raised during this election cycle: sexual abuse, sexuality/LGBT rights, xenophobia, women’s rights, access to medical care, racial tensions, et. al.
  • Create safe spaces for students.
  • Engage in restorative justice training and/or circles.
  • Read, listen to, or watch Waking Up White and other media about what it’s like to be from a marginalized group.
  • Listen to others, especially those with viewpoints and experiences that differ from your own.
  • Practice self-care.
  • Be educated about how government works and how the transition is unfolding.

Adulthood

  • Keep talking to others, especially those with differing viewpoints. Be open, respectful, and receptive.
  • Reflect on and be mindful of your own values, beliefs, and actions, as well as on what you are feeling. Own those feelings.
  • Recognize that students, families, and clients may not share those feelings, values, and beliefs.
  • Listen empathetically.
  • Do not label others or assume one person represents an entire group.
  • Try to understand fear and vulnerability, especially from marginalized groups.
  • Be curious about others and assume their reality is worth understanding.
  • Appreciate that perception can be abstract.
  • Recognize that thoughts, feelings, and ideas change over time – it’s a process.
  • Gather the courage to come together by moving from tolerance to acceptance.
  • Speak and share your feelings in professional and proactive ways.

Do you have suggestions? Share in the comments.

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