As our world
becomes increasingly connected, raising children who are culturally aware and
tolerant is more important than ever. But international travel to help your
children become more worldly isn't cheap or feasible for most families, so most
people need to accomplish the majority of this learning close to home.
Fortunately enough, this isn't very hard to do.
1. Seek Out Diversity
Nearly every culture has holidays; finding where you can be a part of these celebrations provides a glimpse into the experiences of other people in a fun and engaging way. Children of all ages will love the medley of sights, sounds, smells, dancing, games, music, and more that a festival typically entails, and as they grow older, they can be entrusted to participate in more tame observances. If you're not sure where to find these types of things, look online.
2. Curate a Culturally Diverse Household
You don't need to be a part of a heritage to make it accessible at home. Invite your child to help you cook a meal from a different country and turn it into a mini history lesson. When choosing books or music for your children, make sure you pick out a wide range from all over the world. This will more than likely lead your child to ask you questions—don't let not knowing the answers stop you. Turn this into a teachable moment in more ways than one and conduct research with your child until their question is satisfied.
3. Focus on Tolerance in the Classroom
The classroom can be a great opportunity for extending the hand of friendship to those of other cultures. Talk to you child about inviting everyone to join in activities, and communicate the importance of fighting against bullying. Building on these lessons early could make a huge difference in the lives of other children who are at risk of being ostracized. These lessons could even shape your child later in life, such as by inspiring them to participate in student exchange programs.
4. Practice What You Preach
You don't need a manual to teach your children tolerance. Your everyday actions should reflect the respect you're trying to foster in your children: this means avoiding stereotyping or telling insensitive jokes as is commonsense, but also watching how you interact with individual people to be sure you don't exhibit any subtle differences in talking to people from different backgrounds. This also entails avoiding this in media, or, if it comes up, explaining to children why that isn't acceptable behavior.
5. Teach Curiosity
It can be enticing to answer a child's pestering questions with "Because," or "That's just the way it is," but this limits their exploration of the world and discourages inquisitiveness. Try to instill a desire to ask questions in your child so that when they find themselves encountering something novel, they won't make assumptions: they'll seek out answers. This will open a number of doors for them throughout their life as they find themselves connecting with people over a desire to learn about their heritage.
In an interconnected world, people who keep their minds open to diversity will be an ever sought after commodity. Give your children a leg up by raising them to love and accept people as they are: after all, we're all human.
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