As a couple who have become parents in an exclusively foreign environment, this has been a wonderful chance for us to introduce our child to racial and cultural diversity. We are blessed to be able to raise our son abroad, but since we are from different countries, no matter where we live, at least one of us will always be a foreigner. In our community, and while out and about traveling the world, we come across so many ethnicities. This gives our son plenty of wonderful opportunities to learn and appreciate how different cultures live. Understanding that people are not all the same will enable your children to embrace and value the things that make each person or group of people different. Children really do notice differences, so take the time to teach what is important to each culture and help strengthen acceptance and understanding. Even though we are currently living in a place where we are very different from the locals, we could – and at times have – distanced ourselves from the “outside”. More often than not this has been due to frustrations about language and cultural barriers. This is not an example that we want to set for our child (children) in the future, so here are some tips on how to teach your kids to embrace cultural diversity.
- Let your children see you as accepting and tolerant. Our children imitate us, so in order to teach our children about cultural diversity, we need to examine our own hearts first. If you find that you do have any prejudices, you will need to resolve those so that your child will be open to new experiences and new people.
- Encourage learning and fun through foreign food, music, community events and exhibitions. Cultural exposure needs to be incorporated into ones lifestyle. By exposing children to the rich excitement of new cultures, the tastes of foods, the colors of art, and rhythms of music, you will engage their senses. These experiences will teach children that “different” can also be wonderful, and this will build a natural curiosity for cross-cultural adventures. This will provide an invaluable global mindset for your little ones!
- Bring your Travels Home. Decorate your home using artwork, music instruments, fabrics, and other pieces which show your children that these beautiful creations come from a different culture, and that these various cultures are unique and amazing in many ways.
- Be Open. If your child has questions about differences that they notice in physical characteristics or cultural practices, discuss them openly. This will teach them that it’s okay to notice differences, and that it is good to talk about them. It is important to teach your kids to appreciate a wide spectrum of differences, not just racial and cultural but also in gender, disabilities and even in areas of social class.
- Encourage them to learn a second (third, fourth) language. Learning a language helps us understand another culture and skip over cultural misunderstandings with a unique appreciation. Being bilingual will open up infinite doors for your child in the future. If you make this a top priority in your home, through support, tools, and classes, you child will surely thank you, and reap the benefits of this investment later in life.
It is important that you expose your children to a variety of people from different races, religions and cultures in order for them to develop a true sense of cross-cultural understanding. We hope that these five tips steer you along the path in encouraging your children to be well-rounded global beings who accept, appreciate, and love, the different cultures and languages that they come across during their lives. As parents we lay the groundwork for how our children will later view and analyze the world. Make sure that you are laying the right foundations!
Catherine is a contributor to havingababyinchina.com. She was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, but met her American husband in South Korea, while they were both teaching there. They moved to China in 2011, and have since traveled the world and had their first child. Catherine enjoys running, photography, blogging, food, and outdoor adventure. She and her husband blog about life, love, travel and all things in-between at travelingwithjc.blogspot.com.
Great article since I am bringing up my toddler in China who has -apart from the Chinese- also other expat friends!