Fostering cultural awareness in young children
Parents can take a variety of measures to build cultural awareness and tolerance in their children – including young children.
Raising children who are culturally aware can be an adventure in which children, with their parents’ or caregivers’ guidance, can explore and become more knowledgeable – not only about other cultures, but about geography and so much more. Given that our children don’t live in bubble and most will become part of a diverse world as they grow, it is important for our children to develop the skills necessary to live together peacefully with others, even amongst differences.
A parent has to be willing to step beyond familiarity and reach for opportunities that would include children from other backgrounds to expose their children to other cultures. According to the Search Institute, some ways that parents can do this is to interact with others in the presence of their child, demonstrating for their child their comfort level with diverse cultures. Parents can also take their children to ethnic festivals and events. One parent explained, “We are going to meet people that grew up in a different part of the world than ours, their language, food and dress may be different [at ethnic festivals and events]. If we are lucky, we can ask them about their world.” When interacting with people of different cultures, it’s important to be sincere – your child will pick up on it if you aren’t.
Parents can also build a music library of lullabies and other music. Parents can read a variety of books that display characters of diverse populations; these become great opportunities for discussions and learning about other cultures.
Finally, taking turns seeking different restaurants and try different foods can be fun. You may try to have some fun and learn cordial words in other languages to use when the family frequents ethnic outings. Who knows, as the child gets older they may take an interest in learning a foreign language. You can also host a foreign student.
There is so much to learn that you won’t read about in a geography book. It is such big beautiful world with so many wonderful people. Parents can help their children be culturally aware and not build barriers. The main message is to teach children to see people as people, regardless of what part of the world they are from.