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It goes without saying that the world is incredibly diverse and increasingly interconnected. While we adults have the tools to understand and adapt to the differences around us, our kids are still learning. They might see someone that looks different and ask you (maybe loudly) why they look like that. This is normal, of course, and this unfiltered curiosity is one of the most beautiful things about children. It’s vital, however, that we as parents help our kids make sense of the world around them and show them how to respect people’s differences. Not only will this help your child appreciate diversity, but it will teach him about his own identity in terms of race, ethnicity, culture, and language.
Here are several ways to get your children interested in diversity and teach them about other cultures.
Determine your goals for your child
It’s a very good idea to make a list of goals you want to achieve while teaching your kids about culture and cultural diversity. If you have a partner, discuss with them what lessons you want your kids to learn. Then, focus on one value at a time; for example, start with compassion, then shift to respect, then focus on the beauty of different cultures.
Learn some vocabulary
One of the easiest ways to acquaint your child with their cultural background (and, in turn, other cultures) is by teaching them some words from their native language(s). The expression “I love you” is a great place to start. You might also want to teach your child some basic expressions like “thank you” in other languages, particularly if they have a diverse class or neighborhood. This not only teaches them about respect for diversity but it could help them make some friends!
Books are a fantastic way to teach your kids about diversity in terms of family composition, race, religious beliefs, and ability. Consider picking up books such as It’s Okay to be Different (diversity), Same, Same But Different (culture and geography), Where Does God Live? (religion), Over the Moon (adoption), The Family Book (different family makeups), and Don’t Call Me Special (disabilities).
Expose your kids to different cultures
Talking and reading about diversity is effective, but the best way to influence the way your kids think and behave is through real-life experiences. Encourage cross-ethnic/racial/ability/religious friendships, cook or take your kids out for foods from different cultures, and go to different events or festivals that celebrate a different ethnic group, religion, or personal accomplishment (such as Chinese New Year or the Special Olympics).
Be a good role model
Needless to say, it’s crucial that you model cultural sensitivity and respect and stand up against insensitivity, bias, and racism. You are the most powerful influence in your child’s life. It’s also a good idea to focus on the strengths of those who are different from your kids; talk about the person’s positive characteristics and what the person can do (as opposed to what they can’t do), and how differences make the world a more vibrant place.