With the ever-increasing global interactions among people, individuals from different cultural backgrounds mingle in various aspects of life. Unfortunately, even with interactions among people from different cultures being the norm, we still see cases of racism and xenophobia in many parts of the world. For many people, prejudices instilled in them while growing up negatively affect their interactions with people from different cultural backgrounds.
While it’s difficult to teach adults to embrace people with different values and cultural practices, it’s easier to ingrain an attitude of accepting diversity in children. Children lack preconceived perceptions, so exposing them to different cultures helps them handle diversity better.
Why is exposing children to different cultures important?
Exposing children to cultural diversity is beneficial to them at that young age, and its benefits extend into adulthood. Learning about different cultures expands a child’s worldview and ideas. Their scope of thinking is not limited to their native culture or locality, but they could also borrow good ideas from other cultures in the world.
Exposure to diverse cultures helps children become more adaptive, a helpful trait even in adulthood. For example, prior exposure to various cultures enables international students to adjust with fewer challenges.
Learning about different cultural backgrounds fosters compassion and empathy in children. Understanding other people’s history helps them accept them. It can even foster gratitude, recognize and appreciate privilege in some cases.
Research also suggests that children engaged in culturally responsive educational programs tend to develop self-confidence and have good academic performance.
Ways to expose children to cultural diversity.
1. Reading books
For many people travelling hasn’t been the main source of knowledge on other cultures because of the limitations associated with travelling. Books have given many people exposure to the world. Books of several genres tell stories about people from different backgrounds. You could specifically encourage children to read books on culture. Still, you can teach cultural diversity through fiction, nonfiction, history, and any book that details different practices from the reader.
You could read bedtime stories from different places from an early age to introduce the idea of diversity. It can be as simple as reading a book with a different skin colour character. The characters in the book could have cultural celebrations.
2. Try out different cultural food.
You could try out different restaurants that offer a variety of traditional dishes. For example, you could try a meal from a different tribe or country. You could try a recipe associated with people from different backgrounds if you enjoy cooking.
Travelling offers various benefits to children. They get exposed to different people, food, norms, and practices. Have your child travel to a different geographic location within the country or outside to encounter cultural diversity.
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4. Learning a new language
Learning a new language is an excellent introduction to a new culture. As the child learns the new language, their curiosity about the cultural practices linked to the language increases. Learning the language enables kids to get a wholesome experience with the culture because they can consume material without heavily relying on translation. They can understand conversations, watch movies and listen to music without translation which neglects some nuances.
Today children can learn a new language in school through language apps or other language programs on the internet.
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5. Listen to traditional music.
Music is a great tool when it comes to learning cultural diversity. Many adults have learnt about other places and people who practice different cultural practices through music. For example, people from Western countries have gained knowledge about African people through music and vice versa.
Listening to traditional music from various regions informs children about different music styles, instruments, dances, and origins. Different music tells stories about the people, thus opening children’s minds to the diversity in the world.
6. Having different cultural objects in your home
Children can learn cultural diversity from objects. For example, a mother wearing a sari can trigger a conversation about Indian culture. Items like art, paintings, accessories, cutlery, and dinnerware from different cultural backgrounds could teach children diversity. Some people even have culturally themed interior décor, which can be a good introduction to cultural diversity.
7. Take children to museums.
Parents, teachers, and guardians can also take older children to museums and historic sites. These places are rich in cultural information.
8. Attend cultural festivities
Although not all regions have cultural celebrations, you could take your children to events such as weddings. If you have friends from different cultural backgrounds, having your kids attend events such as weddings gives them a chance to experience a different culture. Festivities like Christmas, traditional events, Islam celebrations offer culturally diverse experiences.
9. Encourage questions and foster curiosity
Children naturally ask questions when they see something different. In many instances, parents try to silence children or react in a way that makes diversity seem negative when asked questions. For example, it’s common for parents to shush children when they ask why people have different skin colours or wear cultural clothes.
However, answering cultural diversity questions makes children realize that diversity is natural. If you lack the answers, you could use media to help you explain it to them.
Encourage children to accept diversity
In a world where people frequently interact with others from different backgrounds, accepting diversity is important for co-existence. Parents need to first educate themselves on diversity. They also need to teach children that there’s no problem with being different. Nurturing children, who are aware of diversity, appreciate and understand it offers benefits to those children and society.
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