Four Ways to Get Your Children Involved in Multiculturalism
As we strive to lead our kids down a path of tolerance and acceptance, it is important to expose them to cultures and ideas that are unlike their own. According to Hatch Early Learning, emphasis on multicultural learning actually helps to improve social behaviors among children. The fostering of respect for other cultures helps children build self-awareness, as well as empathy and problem-solving skills. So how can we, as parents, build multicultural teaching into our daily lives? Not all of us live in areas that are teeming with cultural diversity, but even if you don't live in a multicultural hot spot, there are many things you can do to help your children break out of their cultural bubble.
Even in the most seemingly unvaried communities, there is often diversity to be found. Seek out ethnic cuisine (and we aren't talking take-out) to share as a family. If your town or a neighboring city hosts a culture-specific festival, make a point to go and experience the culture, not just through observation, but by talking to the people in attendance. A few great examples are the Heritage India Festival and the St. Augustine Celtic Heritage Festival.
As you immerse yourself in these cultures, remind your children to listen more than they speak, approaching these events as opportunities to learn. Often, we are so ready to talk about ourselves and what we know, that we forget to allow ourselves the opportunity to learn. Be intentional in modeling to your children an attitude of readiness be teachable.
Because the world is an imperfect place, many countries are finding themselves home to displaced people groups and refugees fleeing war and persecution. The organizations that serve these people, such as World Relief and Jesuit Refugee Service are always looking for help in the form of volunteers. As a family, find ways to step into these roles. As you and your children serve, perhaps in things as simple as homework help, you will find opportunities to exercise empathy and to learn about the world outside your own culture.
As a family, make an intentional effort to study other cultures, especially if you are in an area that doesn't offer you access to the real thing. Make ethnic dishes to enjoy together, listen to music from another country, and above all, avoid perpetuating stereotypes. You might also consider signing up for a monthly subscription service that brings the world to your front door. Boxes like World of Snacks, Try the World, and Little Passports offer family members of all ages the opportunity to sample the culture and food of other countries.
You may be surprised by how much your own personal studies can influence your children's perceptions. Taking some university classes online could be a good way to further your own education and help give your children some cultural exposure as well. In today’s digital world you could even complete an entire masters degree in history online, which would definitely give your children plenty of exposure to a variety of cultures and ideas they may never have encountered otherwise.
If your child is old enough, consider encouraging them to participate in a foreign exchange program. Organizations like AFS and ASSE send students all over the world to live with host families and immerse themselves in another culture for as little as two weeks to as much as a year. If your children are older, you could even consider asking them about volunteering for an aid program like HELP International to help developing countries with issues like water purification. If your children are younger and travel away from home on their own is not an option, consider a pen pal program. Kid World Citizen has a list of several reputable programs.
Becoming a Global Citizen is a lifelong process that extends throughout one’s life, but armed with these tips, you can ensure that your child gets a head-start toward a multicultural worldview. Start them young so the transition will be natural. As they grow older their curious minds will likely thirst for more knowledge.