Teaching your kids about other cultures is a great way of teaching them tolerance and diversity. We live in a multi-cultural society and all of our kids are sure to come across other kids and people who have a different cultural background than their own. Kids are excruciatingly honest in what they say and when they come across somebody who looks different or dresses differently, they’re sure to ask you why. They’re not being rude (although you may feel mortified, especially if they ask in a loud voice), they’ve come across a new experience and asking you is their way of learning about new experiences.
Introducing your kids to other cultures is essential to promote tolerance and understanding, not just within your own family, but within society as a whole. This means that as a parent, it’s your job to start as soon as they are able to understand. How to start may be eluding you, but it’s a good idea to start with things or objects, rather than people. Show the kids a pack of crayons and discuss the different colours – make sure that you discuss that although the crayons are all different colours, they are all crayons (the same things with slight differences).
When you go to the supermarket you can look for ethnic foods – foods that are specifically from other cultures. Try buying one of these foods that you’ve never eaten before and trying it when you get home – it’s another opportunity to discuss other cultures.
Make sure that you use language that your children understand – it will need to be age-appropriate as will the information you give them. Younger children can only handle so much information whereas the discussions can become more complex as they grow older and able to understand more sophisticated concepts.
Bring other cultures into your home and into your children’s lives. You can use books and toys, films and music to introduce your kids to the idea that there are other families with different cultures but that we are all people, all the same. Teach your kids about different skin colours and different nationalities at a rate they can cope with. As they get older, you can begin to discuss the variety of religions and beliefs that people follow, explaining that although we may have different customs and different ways of worshipping, we are all human beings, all people.
Decorate your child’s bedroom walls with maps and posters of different cultures in other lands and use these to start discussions on other cultures. It’s difficult for younger children to understand what maps are for, but familiarity will help them to understand a little better. If you travel abroad with your kids this is a great way of introducing them to other cultures – they will see how other people live, work and play while on holiday. They will experience different customs, different ways of life and different foods, all the while enjoying themselves on holiday.
If you treat differences as natural, your kids will grow up to respect others who are different. They will learn to expect differences in people, to see these differences as part of the way in which their world works.
UK schools nowadays are multi cultural which means that the kids will also learn about different cultures when they start school. They will come into contact with other children who have different cultural backgrounds than their own. Primary schools nowadays celebrate religious festivals from other cultures, teaching all the kids about the differences and the similarities between us.