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The importance of role models in nurturing LGBT+ inclusivity in kids

Adam McCann
Adam McCann - June 11, 2019

Prejudice and discrimination are learned. Children are born inclusive.

Children learn by observing their families, peer group, teachers, and from characters in movies and TV. Whether in a formal educational setting or social setting, children are constantly observing and processing the information available to them visually, verbally and otherwise. This starts from a very young age and continues throughout their lives; it is part of being human.

How many times have you had to make a conscious decision not to use profanity when a child is around? How many times have you changed the TV channel because you didn’t want a child to watch the latest tragic news story or violence in a crime drama?

Whether Brexit news is age appropriate is anyone’s guess.

Whether you’re a parent, carer, aunt, uncle, cousin, sibling or grandparent, being an adult in a child’s life means safeguarding them from harmful and negative realities of the world.

What is age appropriate

We rely on experts, like the British Board of Film Classification, to inform us whether a film is age-appropriate for children. While our children are at school, we rely on teachers to deliver age-appropriate lessons.

But at home, we adults use our best judgment to inform their decisions about what a child should or shouldn’t hear, watch or learn.

I am proud of the partnership between Diversity Role Models and Hopster, because I believe we’re the best solution to assist parents and carers to help their children learn to be inclusive at home. The content is positive, educational and informative about the differences that exist in the real world.

Together, we offer children and their families a space to explore inclusivity at home.

Diversity Role Models is a charity that delivers workshops in UK schools and in our experience by the ages of 9-11 nearly ¾ of pupils hear or use homophobic language.

We also know that many students don’t know the meaning of the language they use.

Our workshops educate students about celebrating difference, diversity, inclusion and they focus on the appropriate use and understanding of language.

Is a child ever too young to learn every family is different?

Learning to develop healthy and positive relationships based on empathy and kindness, with children and adults, is an important part of childhood.

One of the activities we do with primary school students in the classroom is the diversity tree. Children work together to decide on the commonalities of families, and these form the roots of the tree. Some of the common words we see are kindness, love, trust, friendship, and care. They then decide on all the different types of families, including nuclear, single parent, and LGBT+.

Through this activity, children learn that all families are different and that should be celebrated!

Another feature of the workshops is LGBT+ and Ally role models who share their personal lived experience. In primary schools the role models talk about their families and how their families may be different but are filled with love and happiness.

All children deserve the opportunity to learn about different families. We have found that one of the most powerful ways to connect and educate children is through our role models.

Children can put a face to a story, they can connect with the similarities of the story and develop an understanding about differences. This is the power of storytelling through role models.

Not all children will have access to LGBT+ role models, but now, through our partnership with Hopster, children around the world will learn ‘love is love’ and that not all families have one mum and one da

About the author

Adam McCann is Chief Executive Officer of UK charity Diversity Role Models.

They work with schools to place LGBT+ or ally role models who speak openly about their lived experiences.

We made Rainbow Stories in partnership with them.

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