About a month ago my 4 year old daughter started to tear up out of the blue. So I asked her what was going on and was surprised at her response. “I’m sad I’m not Indian and can’t dance Bollywood!” she said. (I’ve talked about her slight obsession with Indian dance before) I immediately hugged her and smiled saying, “I have great news for you! You can learn Indian dance even though you are Chinese and Dutch and American! Everyone can learn things about other countries. We all get to share!” Thankfully, that answer satisfied her and she started dancing!
This got me thinking about how I talk to my kids about other cultures and countries. One of our family goals is for our children to be culturally aware, but what does a Culturally Aware child look like?
Here’s my first take at an outline:
- Culturally Aware children know and celebrate their own HERITAGE: We talk a lot about how Baba is Chinese and our family is from Taiwan. I’ve started to introduce my own Euro American heritage and experience living in Germany and the Netherlands for elementary and high school. ways. I want my children to know both sides of their heritage (more to come soon in an upcoming post on creating a Family Heritage Treasure Hunt!)
- Culturally Aware children are CURIOUS: Encouraging your children’s curiosity is as easy as asking questions and seeing where they lead! Are any of your friends from other countries? What country would you like to visit? For more specific examples for the younger crowd, check out a previous post “4 Ways to Encourage Culturally Aware Preschoolers.”
- Culturally Aware children EXPERIENCE other cultures. Ideally this exposure is in person in your own neighborhoods, schools and communities. We specifically chose our neighborhood based on the diverse demographics of the neighborhood elementary school even before we had children. However in places where diversity and multicultural experiences are hard to find in person, never underestimate the power of travel even for very young children! You can also explore with your kids from the comfort of your own home through diverse media (check out our 4 Favorite Multicultural Kids shows)
- Culturally Aware children have a vocabulary to talk about DIVERSITY. Honestly I need to think, research and talk with other parents more about this last one. I read a great article dismissing the ‘diverse environment theory’ (ie if we just put kids in diverse places, they will be tolerant. No! We need to discuss and appreciate differences with our kids!) The article has some great suggestions at the end. Growing Character: Raising Culturally Aware Children by Serina Behar Natkin
What about you? What do you think should be added? What have you found useful? These days I am mostly on Instagram so come over and let me know your thoughts!