Parents should begin teaching their children about different races and cultures from the time the kids are very young. However, it takes more than reading books, watching movies and eating different cuisine.
It’s important that you expose your children to a variety of people from different races, religions and cultures in order for them to develop a true sense of cross-cultural understanding.
Reading books and watching TV programs about different cultures or diverse groups of people is beneficial but it isn’t enough. What children really need is actual exposure to people of different races, religions, cultures and backgrounds from their own on a regular basis. They need real-life, positive experiences.
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Don’t skirt tough issues
If your child comes to you with questions about racism, cultural diversity and religious differences, don’t avoid the tough discussions. If they see or hear about hate crimes or instances of racial tension, use age-appropriate language and discuss the issues openly and honestly.
Step out of your own comfort zone
If your kids see that you only socialize with people of your own race or culture, how do you expect them to expand their own social circles? You should strive to step out of your own comfort zone. You don’t need to create a rainbow of acquaintances just to prove your point. However, you should reach out to new people of different backgrounds whenever possible. An easy way to do this is through your child’s school. Certainly you know of classmates that are from different races, religions or cultures other than your own. Next time you have the opportunity to introduce yourself, do so. And if you find after talking to them that you have genuine mutual interests, invite them into your circle of friends.
Attend cultural events
Most communities have free and low-cost cultural events hosted at places of worship, community centers, schools and other organizations. Explore the calendar of events in your area to find kid-friendly events including interfaith gatherings, cultural festivals, art exhibits from foreign countries and other activities.
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Take a stand against racism or cultural insensitivity
If you want your children to grow up without prejudice and with cross-cultural understanding, you can’t show tolerance to racism or cultural insensitivity yourself. If someone says a rude comment or inappropriate joke — speak up. If it’s not safe for you to speak up in a particular instance, remove yourself and your child from the situation as soon as possible and use the event as a teaching/learning moment.