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        1. Le Scoop
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        How To Use Inclusive Language & Why It Matters

        Dr. Nanika Coor is a clinical psychologist and a respectful parenting enthusiast. Here, she explains what inclusive language is, why it matters and how to incorporate it when talking to your children.

        Written By
        Dr. Nanika Coor
        Emily Isabella

        Your language choices impact how safe, seen and welcome other people feel in spaces with you. As parents, these choices also signal to your children how you feel about identities you may not share, and inform how your kids might feel about those identities in the future. Your kids are looking to you for guidance, and it’s important to lead by example. Below are some ideas to incorporate into your daily speech that can help you avoid excluding others and also help you model inclusivity and acceptance for your children.

        Openly challenge and interrupt gender biases and stereotypes in books, the media, or conversations your child overhears or takes part in. You might say “That character said footballs are for boys. That’s odd to me. In our family, we know that footballs are for anyone who wants to use them. I wonder why someone made this story this way. What do you think?” or “There was a time when people thought only boys were good at playing sports, but today we know that girls and women can play any sport, and we’re so glad about that.” or “Some people think boys shouldn’t cry, but in our family we know it’s healthy for everyone to feel and express their emotions.” Then children learn they don’t have to accept what they read, see on tv or hear on the playground as objective reality. They can be critical consumers of media, question the world around them and hold their own opinions.

        When referring to others whose gender identity you don’t know for sure, use terms like ‘child’, ‘person’, or ‘they’. We can also introduce ourselves with our pronouns with statements like “Hi, I’m Nanika, and this is my kiddo T. - we both use she/her pronouns.” We’re showing that we value knowing the pronouns people prefer, and creating safety for others to offer their pronouns if they want to. When those to whom we are speaking use pronouns that others may not assume based on their appearance, or if that’s true of your child, this can proactively decrease misgendering.

        Avoid language that makes assumptions about family structure. Using family-inclusive language reminds small listeners that families come in many configurations. Not every adult who is accompanying a child identifies as the child’s parent, not every child has a parent, and not every child has a mother and father who are a couple. Terms like ‘grownups’, ‘adults’, and ‘caregiver’ are more inclusive when you are uncertain of adult-child connections, and use ‘child’, ‘children’,‘kids’, ‘folks’, or ‘people’ when uncertain of child genders or you’re addressing a group. We also make assumptions about family connections based on family resemblance. You can be inclusive by not discussing the presence or lack of family resemblance. Many children come into families via marriage, adoption, foster care, donor eggs or sperm, and multiracial children might resemble one parent more than the other. Additionally, not every child’s adult has a cisgendered heterosexual marriage partner, or a partner at all. When you are unsure of an adult’s relationship status, say nothing. If you know they are with someone but you are uncertain of whom, use the terms ‘partner’ or ‘spouse’.

        Use gender-neutral language to describe professions and careers.. Professional terms that imply a job can be done only by a man or a woman can be made neutral. ‘Policeman’ becomes ‘police officer’, ‘ballerina’ becomes ‘ballet dancer’, ‘fireman’ becomes ‘firefighter’. Using neutral language signals that you don’t subscribe to a rigid gender binary, but it also signals that gender doesn’t limit possibilities in your children’s lives.

        Think and speak beyond the binary when it comes to relationships. The most significant reason to use inclusive language is that your own child may go on to identify in ways you’ve not yet considered. Using inclusive terms lets your child know that you welcome who they are right now and whomever they turn out to be. When you say that your son will be a ‘lady killer’ or that your daughter will someday ‘break some boy’s heart’, you’re sending messages about your values about romance, and your child might think ‘If I don’t fit into a rigid binary - will my parent still accept me?’ Using language that models awareness of the fluidity of gender and romantic attraction helps kids feel confidence and resilience around their own identities and the identities of others.

        Unlearning your biases and habitual patterns and changing your everyday language takes time, self-awareness and practice. You’ll make some mistakes, and that’s okay. What counts isn’t being perfect, it’s trying to get it right. If you notice that you’ve used a less-inclusive term or an incorrect pronoun, stop and acknowledge it before continuing the conversation. Take responsibility for your mistake, correct yourself, then continue. No need to self-criticize - forgive yourself with the intention to do better next time. When our children witness us living our values this way, it begins to change how they see the world. Every time we choose to stop and question the assumptive words and phrases we’ve become accustomed to using, we are shifting the narrative for the next generation, and actively creating a new culture of inclusivity.

        Dr. Nanika Coor is a Brooklyn based clinical psychologist and respectful parenting therapist and consultant helping overwhelmed parents start hearing a kinder inner voice and experiencing more mutually-respectful interactions with their children without feeling like a dictator or a doormat. Find out more about her work at