How to Introduce your Children to Different Cultures

With technology making the world ever smaller, in some ways we’re more connected with other cultures than ever before in history. At the same time, divisive sentiments abound, filling headlines and causing many parents to wonder how to protect their children from hateful attitudes while making them culturally empathetic. In an ideal world, we’d all be able to travel globally with our kids, but for most of us, that’s not actually our reality. Fortunately, we’ve got some tips for exposing your children to other cultures and fostering a sense of empathy and understanding.

  • Use books and other media to explore the world. Books can help kids develop a sense of their own identity, and they’re also great for teaching about other countries, cultures, and religions. Read books and watch movies, television shows, and videos together, learning about people around the world, and diverse cultures here in our own nation.
  • Encourage curiosity. It’s embarrassing when a child asks you something loudly about another person’s appearance or clothing in public, but it’s important to answer their questions, normalizing the fact that there are many different types of people in the world. Research other countries and cultures, and visit restaurants, cultural events, and festivals representing different ethnicities and cultural heritages. Talk about religious holidays around the world, and learn about how other cultures celebrate them.
  • Find ways to spend time with different types of people. There’s a good chance that you know someone with a different heritage or religious background than yours. Talking to your kids about these differences, while giving them opportunities to become comfortable with a wide range of people, will help them become comfortable with diversity.
  • Introduce your child to other languages. Sing songs that feature words in other languages, find opportunities to point out foreign words on signs and in reading materials, and let your kids watch educational programming that incorporates other languages.
  • Celebrate differences and recognize commonality. As adults, we often try not to “see” differences. Little children, however, are very interested in what makes people different and what they have in common. Teach your kids to celebrate the differences while encouraging empathy by finding common ground.
  • Set a good example. Your child’s best role model is you, so if you don’t feel like you know enough about different cultures, find ways to educate yourself. Making sure your reactions to people from other cultures are positive and compassionate will go along way toward fostering empathy in your children.

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