When your kids get into the career world, they’ll likely work with people from an array of races, beliefs and backgrounds. Feeling comfortable and talking about your differences is critical in life, according to Janet Penn, executive director of Youth LEAD, a non-profit organization that brings together high school students from different religious, ethnic and racial backgrounds to learn from each other. Read how to help your kids embrace diversity and foster new bonds.
Janet Penn: Between globalization and minority babies now being the majority born in the U.S., our kids will be working with people from different cultural backgrounds. If they’re going to succeed, they need to be comfortable communicating and collaborating with people from many different backgrounds.
Why do you say the ability to connect with people from different cultures is a "must-have" for kids?
Penn: You can’t collaborate and innovate if you don’t trust people or can’t get beyond surface relationships. And sometimes that means agreeing to disagree while still respecting the other person. These are tough skills that are typically not taught in schools but can make all the difference in the workplace. If your kids know how to respectfully share their own perspective when they disagree by using “I” statements, they can turn angry rhetoric into understanding. If your kids know how to listen deeply to someone with a very different point of view, they may just find a new way to solve a thorny design problem at work.
If the sentiment that "diversity is desirable" isn't enough, what do kids need to do to create change in behavior?
Penn: Interact! If your kids have never had a meaningful conversation with someone from a different culture, all they know are stereotypes they may have seen on TV or the internet. When they’re young, it’s as simple as encouraging them to ask about the food in their classmates’ lunchbox. When they’re older, kids can ask questions to seek a different perspective, not merely to prove that their way of seeing the world is better.
If parents socialize in an insulated bubble, how can kids gain a broader worldview?
Penn: It’s up to us to model behavior for our kids. For example, invite neighbors and parents of classmates over for a potluck. Sharing food is always a great way to break the ice and can easily lead to an interesting and meaningful connection.
How do teach your kids about how to connect with people from different cultural backgrounds? Share your thoughts and stories in Comments below.
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