5 Ways to Encourage Inclusiveness to Young Girls

Marisa LaValette, the founder of Happy Hungry Journey, promotes an inclusive environment in her yoga and cooking retreats for women and girls of all ages. She is well-equipped to cultivate connections within a group, thanks to her experience as a middle school teacher. Here she shares her top strategies for teaching inclusivity to young girls.

When I first launched Happy Hungry Journey, providing summer retreats for preteen and teen girls, I over-analyzed every pose I would teach in my yoga sessions and stressed over each ingredient in my recipes. But when I followed up with the girls and their moms, the feedback never had anything to do with the yoga classes or cooking experiences. Girls reported that they bonded with friends, both old and new, while their mothers told me how glad they were to see their daughters forge new relationships and strengthen old ones. I thought I was teaching asana and plant-based recipes to girls, which was ostensibly what I did, but they came away with something else. They gained confidence as they engaged in new activities under the watchful eye of a teacher insisting upon inclusivity.

The more time that goes by, I am most focused on how children feel during various lessons. The activities themselves, though worthwhile, are merely vehicles for teaching girls about community and citizenship. At the end of the day, we realize that all of our activities are just that — scenarios to reveal our capacity to support one another and thrive together. Creating an inclusive environment is the first step toward creating a productive learning environment.

Teach inclusivity by leading by example to get your daughter on a track where she’ll thrive in a supportive community. Model inclusivity for your daughter by participating alongside her in these activities. Soon your daughter will model the same habits to those around her.

1. Teach Empathy Through Service to Others

The first step to learning how to be inclusive is to learn how it feels to be excluded. It has never been more important to teach your daughter about empathy; that is, the ability to imagine oneself in another’s shoes. Introduce your daughter to groups at risk of marginalization — volunteer together at an elderly care center or tutor children with learning differences in underfunded schools. Prepare and deliver meals to people who can’t leave their homes, or organize a fun birthday party for kids living in homeless shelters. Admirable national community service opportunities include: Girls on the Run, National Charity League, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, We, Nature Conservancy, The Humane Society. Discuss with your daughter what she learned from her interactions while helping others feel included.

2. Be Her Role Model: Upstander, Not Bystander

Through your actions, teach your daughter to be an upstander — a girl who is always on the lookout for others, even during her regular daily schedule. Show your daughter the conscientious effort required to draw people together. At your neighborhood block party, NCL meeting, or Girl Scout picnic, let your daughter see you approach other women and introduce yourself. A more subtle tactic for introverts is to offer to help set up for a group meal and ask others to pitch in alongside you. It is less challenging than walking up to a new group but still does the trick to get people involved! Whether overtly or more subtly, empower your daughter to be a connector within any group and show her that inclusion is an active, and not a passive, process.

3. Beware Technology: Model Real-Time Interactions

Your daughter notices the time you spend on your social media accounts. If you’re glued to your phone for hours on end, she’ll model your behavior and spend time managing her relationships online. Instead, let your daughter observe you engaging with your friends in face-to-face, real-time interactions. Host a mother-daughter lunch where no phones or other devices are allowed. Enforce electronics-free times at home, such as dinner and right before bed, a favorite social media time for adolescents. By modeling a commitment to authentic conversations with your friends, you’ll teach your daughter to avoid the social media trap where “friendship” often exists online more than it does in person.

4. Journal Challenges

Set up time for journaling with your daughter, and decide on weekly challenges such as:

  • Introduce yourself to 3 new friends this week
  • Choose a time each day to be on the lookout for anyone being left out (recess, cafeteria, on the bus to games/matches). Take it one step further and make an effort to improve what you see. Invite someone to play a group game at recess or invite the new girl to have lunch with you and your friends
  • Brainstorm mother-daughter gatherings to promote inclusivity through health and wellness activities

Most importantly, remember that you need to hold yourself to the journal challenges, too!

5. Cultivate Community Commitment to Inclusivity

Invite your child’s entire sports team, including the parents, to a gathering at your home. Include the coach in your planning to ensure that you are not missing anyone. Offer activities such as a group yoga session, cooking lesson, or vision board party. If time permits for all three activities, girls can support each other in partner yoga poses, chop healthy ingredients side-by-side in the kitchen, and create vision boards together depicting the kind of inclusive team they want to be. Bear in mind that girls will do exactly what you model— make sure you offer all the parents the opportunity to share in the planning and be sure to socialize with everyone during your event. Help facilitate inclusivity by encouraging the girls to work with different partners for each activity. (Email marisa@happyhungryjourney.com for help planning this kind of event!)

As a yoga teacher and classroom teacher, I strive to remind students of all ages about the fundamental truth that all beings are interconnected. Therefore, our natural job is to promote inclusion everywhere we can and remedy exclusion whenever we see it. Ultimately, remind your daughter that the way we treat others is a reflection of how we feel we deserve to be treated. When we include everyone, we have the opportunity to share our unique gifts with each other.

Get more of Marisa’s positive messages, healthy lifestyle inspiration, and recipes on her website.

Stephanie Raffeock

November 05, 2017 at 3:57 am

It’s great that Athleta encourages young girls and women. But does anyone at Athleta have a mother or a grandmother? Are women over 50 not pretty enough, sexy enough, trendy enough to be invited to join in? I’m 65 and I still value the same exercise and diet principles that I did when I first started buying Athleta 25 years ago. And yet, Athleta has forgotten all about me and women like me. Athleta’s advertising message is: if you are over 50 you don’t count; you couldn’t possibly exercise or even be fit. Women are only valuable when they are young. Stop being such an ageist company, Athleta. The world’s women don’t stop at 50 and we don’t stop having purpose and contribution after 50. Keep exercising and moving, young women. It will serve you in the long run. Just know that for most companies, like Athleta, your worth will not be seen after the age of 50.

Team Athleta

November 06, 2017 at 8:07 pm

Hi Stephanie, we’re sorry that you feel this way. Here at Athleta, our mission is to ignite a community of active, healthy confident women + girls who empower each other to realize their limitless potential. We do our best to highlight inspiring stories of women and girls of all ages – in our Summer catalog, you might have missed our profile on Ernestine Shepherd, an 81 year old personal trainer and competitive bodybuilder. In January, we featured an amazing Q&A with our beloved Tao Porchon-Lynch. She recently turned 99 and teaches yoga 5 days a week. We also recently featured the women of ROW, a sisterhood of breast cancer patients and survivors that embraces the power of exercise to move through recovery.

While these are just a few stories, we’d love to hear more. If you have other women who are doing amazing things that you think deserve a spotlight from Athleta, let us know. We’re always looking for contributors and stories that represent the Power of She.

Learn more about Ernestine: http://www.athleta.net/2017/07/30/meet-ernestine-not-your-average-81-year-old
Learn more about Tao: http://www.athleta.net/2016/12/26/at-98-the-worlds-oldest-yogi-shares-her-wisdom
Learn more about ROW: http://www.athleta.net/row/

Casey Young

November 06, 2017 at 9:56 am

Inspiring article! Teaching empathy through loving ourselves is one of the greatest gifts we can share with our future generations. Especially our young women! Thanks for sharing! Would love to read more from the author!

Marisa LaValette

November 07, 2017 at 2:42 pm

Thanks for reading and commenting, Casey, and for articulating the development of empathy through loving ourselves! Please check out more articles for women and girls of all ages about yoga and healthy recipe inspiration on my website happyhungryjourney.com ! Warmly- Marisa


November 06, 2017 at 1:03 pm

Wonderful article! I especially liked the first step. To be inclusive, you have to know how it feels to be excluded. Love it!

Marisa LaValette

November 07, 2017 at 2:50 pm

Thank you Lisa for reading and commenting about inclusivity! As a brand, Athleta continues to do a great job of mindfully crafting beautiful and high-quality clothing for a wide range of activities PLUS their overall value of speaking to women of diverse ages, bodies, and ethnicities. Warmly- Marisa

Karen Bowser

November 06, 2017 at 2:53 pm

What a wonderful and uplifting article!! Give us more, please. Keep up the good work, Chi Blog!

Marisa LaValette

November 07, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Thank you Karen for reading and commenting! In your free time please check out the other inspiring categories on Chi Blog such as wellness, fitness, style, and the #powerofshe

Martha LaValette

November 06, 2017 at 4:33 pm

I appreciate your inspirational piece. It is making me reflect on my daily interactions and how I, as an adult, can be kinder especially during these challenging times. Thank you!

Marisa LaValette

November 07, 2017 at 2:51 pm

Thank you Mom for reading and commenting about inclusivity! When it comes to inclusivity, Athleta always reminds us that #unitedwethrive
Love Marisa

Eric Young

November 06, 2017 at 6:00 pm

Athleta, has a new store that I have walked by so many times without stopping. After reading this article I am going to have to stop and check it out. I am already thinking of gifts for family members that I have seen in the windows. This is obviously a place where I want to spend my money and a company I want to support, as it supports Marisa’s great message of modeling inclusivity to our children. This is a great article that recommends to us both as parents and examples in our community, lots to think about and to do to lead us to a better place of inclusivity.

Marisa LaValette

November 07, 2017 at 2:44 pm

Eric, you hit the nail right on the head when you mention holiday gifts for the women in your life at Athleta! Athleta’s current line in stores covers everything from workout wear for outdoors running or indoor in the yoga studio or weight lifting, along with fashionable sweaters and a new approach to skinny jeans! Hope you get to check out the new store! Warmly- Marisa


November 06, 2017 at 9:55 pm

I love this article about inclusivity! Being an “upstander”. Encouraging real-time interactions. Cultivating community. This article speaks to more than young girls. It speaks for all ages anywhere. Thanks for the inspiration Marisa LaValette!

Marisa LaValette

November 07, 2017 at 2:46 pm

Thank you Michele for reading and commenting! Thank you for mentioning the part about “upstanding,”- especially when it comes to young girls, we have to model what we preach. Hear, hear!- when you say it speaks to women of all ages. As a brand, Athleta continues to do an amazing job at offering a platform for lessons applicable to women of all ages! Warmly- Marisa


November 07, 2017 at 3:19 pm

Loved this article, Marisa! It’s so important to model inclusive behavior to young girls, and your article offered some fantastic (and very actionable!) ways to do that. Glad to see that Athleta continues to be a brand that’s suports facilitating those types of values in young girls.

Marisa LaValette

November 09, 2017 at 12:17 pm

Thank you Brielle for reading and commenting! I am glad to hear that my advice was actionable and implementable in the short term. The good news is that these actionable suggestions have long term positive effects. Athleta continues to set the highest standard for promoting inclusivity for its women and girls! Warmly- Marisa

Fran L.

November 07, 2017 at 5:06 pm

Marisa, Thanks for sharing such inspiring ways to not just empower our daughters but to remind us to be positive role models for them in the same ways. When my girls are older, I would love to do a yoga retreat with them. I’ll have to book you when you are in our area in about 4 years!

Marisa LaValette

November 09, 2017 at 12:09 pm

Hi Fran! Thank you so much for reading and commenting! A mother-daughter yoga retreat is right up my alley! The same values learned in my retreats of a balanced lifestyle and healthy eating are applicable to women and girls of all ages! Yes, being around young girls and teaching them inclusivity holds us accountable for modeling those inclusive behaviors! Warmly, Marisa

Mike Haven

November 10, 2017 at 4:18 pm

Marisa, thanks for contributing to the blog with this great advice. It is relevant to everyone – girls, boys and adults of all ages. The kids are fortunate to have you in their lives, both in and out of the classroom!

Marisa LaValette

November 16, 2017 at 8:40 am

Thanks Mike for checking out this blog post! I’m so proud of how it turned out. Thank you for emphasizing that while I wrote these tips for women and girls, they are great for men, boys, and people of all ages! I am fortunate to work with such a great group of kids and parents, too!

Stephanie Peterson

November 20, 2017 at 11:45 am

Thank you for publishing this thoughtful article. I love it. I was pointed here because my daughter is in some of the images but I’m am outspoken advocate for diversity, inclusion and equality. Some adds that I hope are welcomed: (1) model a strong voice against bullying and for inclusiveness. Share or model examples in your own life where you support others to show her that even when its uncomfortable to stand up for others, it’s necessary. Also, be thoughtful and inclusive about who you bring into your home. If your children see diversity and inclusion in the home, they will more easily welcome it in their hearts, too.

Marisa LaValette

November 29, 2017 at 11:10 am

HI Stephanie! Sorry I did not see your comment right away! I love the additional suggestions regarding bullying and regarding bringing diverse people into the home life. I’m glad to hear your daughter is in the photos! I hope she had a wonderful time shooting with Athleta! Thank you for supporting such a great brand! Happy Holidays from Marisa

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