Children are beautifully curious about the people around them, paying much less attention than we do to skin color and style of dress…until they are taught to do so. Raising children that are culturally aware, engaged, and sensitive starts with mom and dad.
We’d love to believe we are so flawlessly colorblind, that we respect all cultures as our own, and could never be called prejudice. But the reality is that all of us, whether from parental influence, personal experience, or prevailing cultural mindset can’t help hanging onto some racisms, prejudices, and feelings of superiority. Don’t worry, I’m not the PC-police calling you out, I’m stating a fact.
This couldn’t be more normal and more human. The key is what we do with it. Underlying prejudices don’t have to stop you from cultivating cultural awareness and appreciation in you and your children. We do this imperfectly—but we do it anyways. Does taking your kids to the Cinco de Mayo festival erase your apprehensions or prejudices about Mexicans? Probably not, and it’s a little self-righteous to believe that it would, but it shows your kids that despite conflict and prejudice we can still move forward in appreciation.
Bringing your children into the richness the world has to offer starts with you. When you take steps to cultivate a love for people and their cultures and their stories, you go leaps and bounds beyond the diversity lessons your kids are likely to get in school. What happens in school is peripheral to the prevailing attitude within the home.
A Few Ways To Help Your Kids Love Other Cultures:
Keep it simple. Helping you kids love other cultures doesn’t have to mean special programs and classes, though there’s nothing wrong with those. When you start learning and taking an interest in other people, their needs, and their lives, you naturally spill this over to your kids in the conversations you have and the activities you choose.
Speak Their Language. Nothing bridges cultures like a common language. Children are language sponges—they can easily learn at least two languages at the same time. If bilingual education isn’t an option, find community programs and classes in your area. Take advantage of their fertile little minds to give them the skills that will enrich their life, not to mention make them a greater asset in the job market.
Volunteer. Though you don’t want to set up the attitude that people of other cultures and races are inherently needy, and thus dependent on you to help them, volunteering can be a great way to get kids involved outside of their own world and to see that there are a lot of people that don’t live and think like them and that’s okay. It also instills in them a love of service and a sense of gratitude.
Rethink Disneyworld. Though fun, you might think of travel experiences that will enrich your kids on a deeper level. How about a mission trip building houses in Honduras? Group missions trips can often be reasonably priced and help take kids beyond the luxuries that are so commonplace in our culture.
Make Friends. What kids learn at a festival or in the classroom can be worthwhile, but it doesn’t always go the distance in actually bridging gaps. In a certain way, the us-them dichotomy is maintained. Cultures bridge through relationship and interaction more than distant observation. Think about the people groups in your area—how can you break in?
How do you cultivate cultural appreciation in your family? Share in the comments below!