Updated: Jul 24
For better or for worse, the topic of race is top of mind for many parents. Here are some helpful tips for raising a culturally curious child.
Start with empathy
First: breathe. Perfection isn't what we are looking for. Ever. Effort is the name of the game here.
So how do we raise culturally curious children? Hint: be culturally curious yourself.
Kids are naturally curious, it's how they develop thinking skills. If you've seen a baby wonder about the voices around them and eventually gaze in astonishment at their own arm then you understand that curiosity starts at a very young age. They will eventually form their own opinions based on their experiences of the world. Especially as they start to explore relationships and notice physical and social differences. Strengthen their empathy muscles by letting them wonder how they would feel in situations outside of their own experience.
Walk the Walk
Do you know where the continents are in relation to each other? If not, find a map and figure it out together! Find out where your neighbors and where your children's friends are from and if they are immigrants ask for recipes and traditions they don't mind sharing. Learn your history and speak positively about cultures other than your own. Clearly state that you are against any kind of racist behavior so that there is no room to infer otherwise.This is more than having a taco night, this is a taco night + credit to Mexico for other achievements.
Guide, don't squash their opinion
Sometimes your child might have ideas that don't reflect how you feel at all. Before you respond, remember that they are still young and still learning. Ask questions to get to the root of their opinions. Respect and acknowledge their anxieties about the world and their place in it; make sure they know they can talk to you about their uncertainties. Let them wonder about the world around them by again using empathy to put themselves in other people's shoes.
Encourage diverse interactions
Most of us were taught to be "upwardly mobile" and aim high in terms of where we live and where we go to school. Unfortunately, this could very well mean that you lack true diversity in both of those spaces. Remember that diversity doesn't always necessarily mean diversity of culture. It could also mean diversity diversity of income, diversity of gender, and diversity of experience. Bring that into your family's life so that they can see varied perspectives. Homogeneity creates myths about otherness which then become -isms that are harder to control.
About that Taco night: I wasn't kidding about learning more about Mexican heritage. Cooking is a great way to broach the subject of culture and to bring more if it into your life. There are literally millions of kid friendly recipes that you can use as a starting point to investigate specific origins of ingredients and traditional preparations. This Ghanaian fufu recipe is a fun one to try!
Forms of art like dance and visual art are also excellent ways to support and bring cultural expression into your home. These are just a few ideas. Which ones have you tried?