Studies show that early education on inclusion helps children and families succeed, but it isn’t just about implementing laws or rules that encourage society to be more inclusive. It includes the type of language we use.
I spoke with Stephanie Levich, founder and president of Family Match Consulting, an egg donor, sperm donor, and surrogate search service, and author of From the Start, a children’s book about inclusive family-building. Levich, who was adopted, has a life goal to eliminate the stigma surrounding how families are made and make our world more inclusive.
Levich said there are various reasons why adults should teach children about inclusion and how families are created.
“One in eight American couples experience infertility and that does not include the same-sex couples or single parents by choice who turn to fertility treatments or adoption to create their families,” she asid. “Millions of people have used collaborative methods of family-building to become parents and so it is important, even for those who have not built their families through these methods, to be mindful and inclusive when discussing the ways families can be made with children.”
We spoke about an explanation that I am sadly guilty of using — telling my children that babies come from mommy’s tummy. Levich said the explanation is an oversimplification, and children would benefit more from understanding about the different methods of birth.
“Parents should be mindful and intentional with the language they use with a child to avoid overgeneralizing these concepts,” Levich said. “It’s important for parents to consider that their child’s classmate might have two moms, a neighbor may be planning to adopt, or a teammate on the child’s baseball team may have been born through the help of egg donation.”
Levich often uses her own upbringing as an example of how to teach inclusion and the benefits of it.
“While I was too young to recall the first time [my parents] shared my story with me, I will always remember how loving and joyous they described my adoption,” Levich said. “They explained that my birth mother loved me and wanted me to have the very best life and she knew that my mom and dad would be able to give that to me.Being told the truth of my conception and the positive framing surrounding my adoption is something that I believe has made me a more self-assured and confident adult.”
Levich offers four examples of how adults can correct their language to be more inclusive:
Exclusive: Where is your mommy and daddy?
Inclusive: Where are your parents? Or where are your grown-ups?
Exclusive: Babies grow in their mommy’s tummy.
Inclusive: Babies grow in a tummy.
Exclusive: When a mommy and daddy love each other very much, they can make a baby together.
Inclusive: People can make babies when they want to become parents or families are made in many different and amazing ways.
Exclusive: Did you get your blue eyes from your mom or dad?
Inclusive: You have beautiful blue eyes.
“By normalizing the conversation about family configurations and the various ways families can be made, we can help build a future generation of people who are comfortable and confident in their conception and birth stories,” Levich said. “By removing any stigma surrounding family building and infertility, we can also help ensure that the hopeful parents of tomorrow who may find themselves in the throes of infertility, or who opt to pursue paths like adoption to create their families will feel more supported, seen, and less alone.”