If you live in a multicultural city, there’s a good chance your child already has a lot of exposure to different races and cultures.
But if you live in less diverse areas, your child will probably see people who appear and behave a lot like you and your family.
How can you ensure that your child doesn’t grow up sheltered? To raise a child who is both aware of cultural and racial differences and open to them, read on to learn these eleven ideas.
Be Honest and Explain
When kids are confused or curious, they usually don’t censor themselves. And this can result in a blunt question raised in a public setting. When children observe someone from a different race or culture, they can easily wonder why someone looks like that, speaks like that, dresses like that or behaves like that.
If your child is confused about the color of someone’s skin, or with their accent, don’t shush them or shame them. Simply answer them with a truthful response.
They’ve noticed a difference and while it’s important that you validate their observations, it’s also important to show them that there’s nothing wrong with these differences.
Introduce Other Languages Early
When your child is learning to talk or beginning his or her education, take the opportunity to sneak in words and phrases from other languages.
For example, teach your child how to say, “Hello”, “Goodbye”, “I love you”, “Good night” and “Good morning”.
By doing this, you’re essentially making these words a normal and acceptable part of your child’s life. That way, when they hear these words spoken by native speakers, they’ll feel an affinity to these people, instead of feeling as though they’re worlds apart.
Read Books About Different Cultures
One great way to introduce foreign languages is to read books to your child. They can be simple picture books, or more complicated, depending on your child’s language proficiency and cognitive development.
These books expose your child to more than just another language. They can show your child how other people live, eat, dress and live. The Barefoot Book of Children would be a nice addition to your home bookshelf.
Or, you can visit your local library to find books that promote diversity and multi-culturalism.
Traveling with children is a challenge, but it’s a great way to expand your child’s worldview. But traveling isn’t enough.
If children are critical, judgmental or even racist while taken outside of their comfort zone, it’s important that you never tolerate this behavior. Instead, encourage open-mindedness and curiosity instead.
Cook Different Cuisines or Dine at Ethnic Restaurants
Your city or town may have many different types of restaurants, and if that’s the case, try to bring your children out to taste different cuisines.
They might not like the new flavors at first, but it’s still good to show them that there are many different ways to eat and that people eat differently throughout the whole world.
If you enjoy cooking, prepare meals based on different cultures. Your child will have a chance to taste lots of new spices, dishes and maybe learn a new word or two. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t absolutely love everything. Taste is subjective and it’s only normal to like some, and dislike others.
But no matter what, always encourage patience, open-mindedness and never tolerate unkind or judgmental remarks.
Talk About Different Lifestyles Based on Weather
The weather might seem like a banal topic, but the weather has a serious impact on how people live throughout the world. It influences their diets, leisure activities, clothing, and so much more.
So, when you check the weather, why not check the weather in a faraway place? You might be heading to the beach, while others are hiking in the snow.
Write to a Pen Pal
When your child is old enough to read and write, help them find a pen pal from another country.
This is an excellent way to build a friendship with someone from a different race and/or culture if you don’t have an opportunity to travel, or if you don’t live in a culturally diverse city. Sites like Pen Pal World and Students of the World are two places to start looking for the perfect match for your child.
Is there a holiday you celebrate that other cultures celebrate, too? If so, why not incorporate some of their customs and traditions into your next holiday?
Another way to expose your children to different cultures and races is to observe a national holiday or religious feast that’s entirely new to you.
This can be a great way to explore different belief systems and discuss how other people understand one another, the world, and even God.
Attend Ethnic Festivals
Churches or ethnic communities host festivals where you can get a small taste of another culture without having to travel very far. These festivals usually serve up more than yummy food. Music, dance, costumes, and language are all proudly and passionately shared with anyone who wants to join in the fun.
Ethnic festivals are also the perfect way to introduce your children to great cuisine if you don’t feel confident cooking new foods at home.
Actively Create Friendships with People of Other Races and Cultures
Your children learn from you. So, if it’s possible, try to cultivate friendships with people from other backgrounds or races. This will immediately normalize interracial and intercultural relationships for your children.
When it comes time for them to create their own budding friendships with different classmates, it won’t seem strange or taboo for your child.
Watch Foreign Films
Watching appropriate foreign films can be both entertaining and educational. Foreign films are a fun way to learn a language and observe how other people interact and behave within a different country and/or culture.
Foreign films also allow you to see how people approach everyday activities and problems.
Teaching diversity and tolerance to your children starts with exposure. But it doesn’t end with exposing them to different races and cultures. It’s important that you keep these things normal and acceptable to your children.
This can help them grow without developing a superior mindset, stereotyping or criticizing other types of people.