How to create a welcoming home
DECATUR AS A CITY is working to create a climate of nondiscrimination, first passing a city ordinance in 2019, then last year adopting a policy where it won’t do business with vendors who do not have their own nondiscrimination policies.
As the country celebrates Pride Month this June, local families may be looking for ways to align with inclusivity. Dr. Shannon Widlansky, gender expert and master-certified life coach, says there are benefits to both parents and children of making an effort.
“The more welcoming, the more open you are to other ideas, the better relationship you’ll have with your children,” she said. “They’re going to feel they can come to you with their thoughts and ideas, even if they are different than yours. And any part of their identity that might be different than yours, they’re going to feel that they can talk to you about.”
Here are the hallmarks Widlansky suggests for creating a welcoming home.
Consume Representative Media
Take a look at the TV shows you watch or the bookshelves in your home and make sure that some of the stories, characters and authors are different from your family. Buying books alone won’t solve for equity and inclusion, but it’s a great place to have conversations start, Widlansky points out.
For example, the National PTA reports a recent survey of children’s literature shows that stories about white main characters make up
more than 40 percent of protagonists, with animals coming in second at 29 percent. Look for examples that represent diversity and avoid
tokenism and stereotypes, then support those stories with your wallet.
Share the News
Many parents avoid current events to stay away from negativity. Widlansky suggests finding a source for what’s happening and then discussing in age-appropriate ways.
“As you get into middle school and older, they may be hearing these things at school,” Widlansky said. “Bring up the news story then ask ‘has anyone talked about this at school’ or ‘what do you think?’”
Give your opinion in a non-judgmental way, sharing what you believe and why is an education in itself. Widlansky suggests you can also use the phrase “this is what I need to know more about to have an opinion” when unsure.
Use Inclusive Language
(Avoid Four Assumptions)
We’ve been socialized to make certain assumptions from a young age. This creates expectations and opportunities for children to assume they are disappointing their parents now and later in life. “I’ve spoken to many people who identify as some part of the LGBTQ-plus community who have talked about the fear of coming out to their parents because of this language that’s used,” she said.
Don’t assume your kids are going to get married. “If and when you decide to have a partner in this life” is a good alternative to “when you grow up and get married” because it doesn’t define whether or if they want a partner.
Don’t assume your kids will have children. “In my experience as an OBGYN, my patients often thought about the expectation of their parents when they faced infertility,” Widlansky said.
Don’t assume sexual orientation. This shows up most often when asking if someone is your child’s “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” or discussing the gender they will marry in the future. Use “love interest” or “person of interest” instead.
Don’t assume gender identity. This applies not just for your child, also other people. “Most people don’t realize gender identity is an internal sense of self, not something you see,” said Widlansky. She is a proponent of avoiding categorizations bybgender such as girls like kittens and boys need to move a lot.
While acknowledging inclusive language no guarantee of open communication, Widlansky adds, “I’ll tell you, it is amazing when you can hear what your kids think independent of you.”
For more information on Widlansky’s work, visit @self_revolutionize_coaching on Facebook or Instagram.