The other day my daughter was talking about how she spends her recess time. She has a couple of wonderful friends she plays with, in and outside of school, and of course, she has her little brother, who is The Best friend. Sometimes she engages with her friends at recess, but sometimes she’s perfectly happy watching them do their thing. I always wondered if she would be the kid that would be off playing by herself, like she did when she was a toddler. I hoped she wouldn’t be left out. I prayed she would make some good friends. Not only did she make friends, but she made a couple of exceptional ones that are always there for her and love her for who she is. One in particular that you’ll see a lot of in this post. She’s the sweetest friend to my kid. She’s that kind of friend you hope your kid is to others. The one that has made all the difference.
But the other day, my daughter mentioned in passing that the other kids at recess sometimes “let” her play. She seemed perfectly at ease about the notion, but the way she worded it threw both my husband and I off. We tried to clarify, and asked her if she plays with the other kids every day or if she’s not always allowed to play. I like to think I don’t take everything literally all the time, but knowing that our daughter does, it made me wonder what was really being said and how she was understanding it. She repeated “they let me play sometimes”. They let her play? It sounded like they were doing her a favor. I’ll admit, my mama bear instincts started to kick in and I wanted to get to the bottom of how she was spending her recess. After more digging, we discovered as literal as our daughter tends to be, she didn’t understand the meaning of let the same we did. I pictured her being “allowed” to be play with them if they felt like it that day and she just used that word to say she was playing with the other kids sometimes.
Of course, that all got me thinking about a few things, one of them being that I need to take a chill. Another one being how important the words we choose to use are and how our experiences with them effect how we perceive their meaning when they’re used. But most importantly, it got me thinking about inclusion in different ways and what we teach our kids about it. It’s something we talk a lot about in the autism and special needs communities. There is a lot of discussion about inclusion in the classrooms, something that continually needs to be addressed. Every parent wants their child to be accepted and included though, no matter their abilities. It’s something we all have in common. So why is it that we all feel the same way about our children, yet we don’t all teach our own children to not just accept, but also include? Why don’t we teach them kind and inviting words to use with others that include and make them feel a part of the group instead of words that do the opposite?
The answer is that it’s not a priority for us. We all want our kids to be accepted and included, but we don’t take the time to teach our kids how to invite others to play. We make sure they know how to ask if they can play with a group, but we don’t tell them the right way to respond to someone who asks to be included. Do we tell them to invite the kid that is sitting all alone at recess to play? Do they know how to invite someone and be inviting? We all want our kids to be happy, first and foremost, but do we teach them how to be selfless? It’s important for us to teach them to think outside of themselves. We want them invite and include, not just let or allow children to play with them. We should teach them to smile, be welcoming, use words of encouragement, be supportive, be open minded and to be flexible. You never know the struggles a child might have at school or at home. Recess may be the only time they get to enjoy being a kid, outside with friends, and it is a great place for all children to grow and improve their social skills. The little ripples these actions create will cause those who have been invited and included, to be those same kids that will turn around and invite and include others as well.
We’re so thankful for friends who invite, include and accept our daughter. We have seen how thoughtful they are when it comes to her and how they always bring her into a group. But we know that many kids don’t have the same experience that she does. Sometimes our kids are missing out on the simplest lessons from us because we think they just know. We assume our kids know how to navigate friendships and social situations, so we don’t make it a priority to teach them. They learn from us, but do we always set the best example? No matter the child, challenges or not, they can benefit from learning proper social skills. It will have a huge, an extremely positive impact on them and others. All it takes is teaching our kids to be considerate to others and to embrace every kid they come across. Every kid wants to be invited to play, not just allowed to. Help your kids learn to be inviting friends like my daughter’s friend is. Because that kind of friend is truly a treasured one they will always have.