My son has an interest in Spanish. This is because at the school he goes to, there are a number of children of Mexican descent (many are the children of immigrants). He thinks it’s interesting that these children can speak another language, and he enjoys playing with them. One day a couple of years ago, my son came home and told me that one of his friends was going to Mexico for Christmas, and he wanted to know where Mexico was. We got out the atlas and looked. Then we looked up other countries. Ever since, my son has been interested in learning about other cultures.
The Importance of Cultural Understanding
In a world that is becoming increasingly small, cultural understanding is important. With an increase in mobility, as well as technology, we are far more likely to come in contact with people of different cultural backgrounds than our grandparents were. As a result, it is important to be mindful of other cultures, and to help our children learn how to interact in a constructive manner. Many misunderstandings in the world could be avoided if we took the time to understand viewpoints and cultures other than our own.
Teaching Children to Appreciate Other Cultures
Cultural understanding starts young. I have always been interested in the holidays, customs, religions and cultures of others from around the world, and I am glad that my son shows an interest. Some of the things that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests that you can do to help foster cultural understanding in your children include:
- Talk about differences you see in others positively, and point out similarities between you and others in different cultures. Point out that not everyone is the same, and that’s okay.
- Let your child know that speaking with prejudice can be hurtful to others, and avoid speaking negatively about other cultural groups in your home. Set an example of respect.
- If possible, create opportunities for your children to meet other children from different cultural groups.
Other things that I like doing to help my son appreciate other cultures is to make other cultures interesting and fun. We eat different foods from other cultures, since cultural differences are often present in food. Sometimes we make the food at home, and other times we eat at Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Mexican restaurants in our town in addition to the local Italian restaurant and more American “standard” fare. We also like going to the Filipino restaurant an hour away, and we are looking for good Native American, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Iberian recipes and restaurants within an hour of home. Eating the food present in different cultures is a great way to start a discussion about other cultures — and even to discuss cultural differences within countries (India and China are just two good examples).
We also like to look at the atlas, find different countries, and look up information (often online) about their holidays, customs, art traditions and major religions. Hopefully, this will help my son understand a little more about others, and foster understanding. After all, we are becoming an increasingly global community, and I’d like my son to be a part of that.