We all strive to create a better world around us, and create a more loving and open society for our kids to flourish in. One very important way we can teach our kids to be better members of society is to teach them cultural awareness. Being culturally aware sounds much more complicated than it is. Many of us already have a sense of cultural awareness without putting much thought into it. But now, more than ever, it’s important that we intentionally learn to be aware and respectful of those from different backgrounds than us. Teaching our children cultural awareness starts in the home with parents, who are the biggest influence on kids and some of the most valuable teachers children can learn from.
Cultural awareness for kids has many benefits, both personal and interpersonal. As children learn to navigate the world around them, introducing them to things early on that they may not be familiar with helps kids learn to adapt and perform better in social situations over those who may not be accustomed to such variations. Children build cohesive relationships with those they meet and learn to appreciate diversity and differences rather than shun them. Humans naturally fear or distrust things they don’t understand so learning to understand those different than us helps us be better neighbors and friends, and dispel negative stereotypes and personal biases. Culturally aware children learn to respect and build trust with those of contrasting backgrounds from them.
Being culturally aware as children also helps kids build positive self esteem and their own sense of identity. As they normalize differences, they become models of empathy, understanding, kindness, and more. And through those things, they recognize important parts of themselves. Kids can strengthen their own cultural identity by learning about other cultures through what is called a “cultural mirror”– differences and similarities are equally important and how children learn to identify with themselves and those around them strengthens their perception of self. By learning to see similarities between themselves and people they would otherwise see as different, children gain more respect and empathy for others and themselves.
As children grow and learn, their minds are ever expanding, soaking up the world around them like a sponge. By creating cultural awareness, kids will broaden their understanding– they will see the world from different points of view, making new connections and pathways in their minds, helping them come to better conclusions due to their widened perspectives. Being able to adapt and be accepting has many more intellectual benefits– being culturally aware and understanding will actually help children become better problem solvers and critical thinkers. By building strong bonds of unity and solidarity with their peers, they all will become better creators, innovators, communicators, and more.
As overwhelming as it might sound, don’t fret too much. As a society and community, we can all learn to be culturally accepting and help teach and show our children that being different isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, it is something to celebrate.