Long before we had our first child, my husband and I decided that one of the best lessons we could impart upon our offspring was the importance of being culturally inclusive.
It helped, of course, that we lived in an inner city neighbourhood favoured by Italian, Greek and Vietnamese migration and, more recently, East African, Chinese and Pakistani.
According to the experts, exposing children to different cultures is the best determinant in creating opportunities for kids to see for themselves that, even when people have different customs, beliefs or ways of life, they often share similar traits.
From such realisations children come to accept and respect others from different cultures and backgrounds. (This has certainly helped in our circumstance. For our children having ‘pho’ at a Vietnamese restaurant is as familiar as ordering a burger at fast food chain Grill’d.)
The benefit of this is twofold: one, they learn to work and communicate better with others; and, two, it’s self-esteem building, as children become more comfortable in situations or settings unfamiliar to them.
So here are a few ways to open up your child’s worldview:
Look up your family tree
Help your child understand your family history and background and that of their friends.
Talk with your child about the ways in which people within your family are different from each other. For example, you each have your own likes and dislikes, interests and things that you’re good at.
Discuss your child’s observations, questions or concerns
Help your child to consider the feelings and opinions of others and to put themselves in another person’s shoes. Answer their concerns honestly, and always be mindful of referring to other cultures and cultural practices respectfully.
Foster cultural curiosity
Most primary schools have a motto that includes encouraging respect and community, but why not add to this by learning about other beliefs, values, foods and customs? Take the time to meet and greet your neighbours and, if they’re originally from another country, share these experiences and knowledge with your children.
Kids learn best from modelling, so why not demonstrate acceptance and respect for other cultures and beliefs?
Broaden your tastes
Introduce family meals from other cultures; for example, Monday can be spaghetti bolognaise night, Tuesday could be a curry, Wednesday sushi etc.
Make it fun
Help your children see that differences are to be appreciated and celebrated by exposing them to other cultures and people, through watching television programs or reading books about other people and places and participating in local community cultural events and festivals.