Modeling and Teaching Our Kids to Reach Out and INCLUDE

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by Erickson Ocampo: http://flickr.com/photos/coolbite1/3596619861/

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by Erickson Ocampo: http://flickr.com/photos/coolbite1/3596619861/

Every year, as a principal, I hear the heart-breaking stories from parents and kids about not having friends, not being invited to play after school and never being invited to a birthday party.  Although we are only a few students and children in communities, these stories are far too common and are not only devastating to the children but also the families.

As I grow with my kids, one of my goals is to always reach out and invite a child who, for whatever reason, needs a friend.  I have seen parents do this in our school as they taught and modeled to our children the importance of including others in their circles.

When I was in elementary school, I remember new students moving to our town and struggling to make friends.  On a couple of occasions (probably more), my parents asked me to choose a child that was new or struggled to have friends and invite them to come to a Canucks game with my dad and I (back when the Canucks games were mostly losses but very affordable). These events grew into friendships and modeled to me the empathy and care that is needed to truly understand and appreciate the value of friendships and inclusion of others.

As we move into another school year, my challenge to parents (including me) is for us to reach out and include students beyond our children’s typical friendship circles.  If it is a new student in the class, set up an after school activity for a day.  For birthdays, start by reaching out to one child that needs a friend… and if our children disagree, this gives us the perfect opportunity to embrace a teachable moment about empathy and care.  If it is a student that struggles with some behaviours or disabilities that require support, invite the child to come over with the parent so you can truly understand the challenges that both the child and the family face.  Raising a child with a disability and/or a child that requires significant behaviour support can also be very difficult for the parents. They, too, can be left feeling alone and negatively judged as “bad parents” when it is often a condition that is not about parenting and more about extra support, empathy, and understanding.

A series of these small efforts can have a life-changing impact on children, families and society as a whole.  I invite you to join me, and many families whom I learn from, in reaching out and teaching our children to include others.



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Chris Wejr

Proud father of twin girls and a son. Currently working as the Principal of Shortreed Elementary School (K-5) in Aldergove, BC, Canada. Passionate about instruction, strengths-based education and leadership, reconciliation, assessment, and human motivation.


  1. Hey Pal,

    I love this bit. Planning on sharing it with the parents of my learning team — and planning on following your parents’ pattern with my own daughter. I want her to learn to embrace everyone and to be one of those kids at school that automatically works to include everyone in her social circles.

    Rock right on,

  2. Wow!! As I was reading this I wished I had read it when my kids were younger. I SO wish I had been as wise as your parents and done the same with my kids. These are such simple ways to support others at the same time as developing empathy in our own children. A win-win on so many levels. I am definitely having that – why didn’t I think of that – feeling!!! Will pass this along to the parent community at my school as I know they will be up for the challenge!!

  3. I just started as administrator in a new school. My office overlooks the playground. Last week as school started, I watched the first few lunch periods: students were sitting alone looking sad. … And then I saw other students approach them and sit with them and bring them into the circle. My own two children experienced the same thing. … Wow. My comment to parents later that week was that this kind of behaviour is caught more than taught and that parents have done a great job with their children to end up with this kind of result.

    These parents still exist today.

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