Ways to expose your children to cultural diversity
You needn't become a traveling missionary in order to expose children to cultural diversity and differing perspectives. Here are some ideas for simple ways to bring diversity into your everyday life:
1) Watch television programs that depict other cultures, such as those offered by PBS or National Geographic. A great source for these videos is your local library. As you watch, ask children questions about what they think it would be like to be born in that community or how their life might change. Talk about the drawbacks and benefits.
2) Sponsor a child through an organization such as Save the Children. You and your kids will be able to write letters and interact with a child in a completely different part of the globe, sharing experiences and learning about an alternate way of life. It will also teach lessons in empathy and compassion.
3) Throw "culture parties" throughout the year where you pick a day to celebrate a certain culture. Study it, find out what life is like, and throw a party at the end with dress up and festivities.
4) Become knowledgeable about cultural diversity yourself and then use this knowledge in your everyday interactions with kids. This is probably the most profound and practical way to foster divergent thinking. For example, on an occasion when you're sitting down for dinner with your kids, take a moment to talk about how families in Japan sit down on the floor to eat rather than in chairs. When you're serving them snack, take a moment to talk about some of the snacks kids in other cultures find tasty – such as tree grubs or roasted fire ants.
Not only does this teach them about cultural diversity and different ways of living, but you'll probably find it opens the door for many other valuable conversations. For example, an antidote about how kids in other cultures walk around naked except when it's cold outside might lead to a talk about how being embarrassed when it comes to nudity is something we learn, and why it's important to be proud of our bodies and not ashamed of who we are. Or you might find that a talk about how other cultures do things could result in a discussion about why we feel the different things we feel.
If you can become the parent who brings antidotes and stories such as this into your everyday life, the social and emotional intelligence of your children will grow by leaps and bounds. It's one of the most profound psychological gifts you can give your children, and they'll be better, stronger people because of it.