Teaching Children to Celebrate Diversity
It is so wonderful to live in a region that is so culturally diverse. Most Canadians want Canada to be a compassionate and welcoming country that encourages cultural awareness, and it is something we should all be proud of. We have a bit of every country you can think of here and teaching your child about different cultures and traditions can ensure they grow to be accepting of all people.
Teaching cultural diversity can be as easy as modelling accepting behaviour, talking about different countries and their traditions, exposing them to different ethnic foods, exploring different holiday traditions, and, if the budget allows, travelling!
Access cultural resources
The best way to teach culture is to immerse yourself and your family into it. Travelling is perfect for that but not typically realistic for most families. More accessible ways to learn about other cultures around home could be having maps or atlases around and open, talking about the different countries they become aware of through media, the places you, your partner, or family have visited and books! There are many children’s books that promote cultural awareness in a language that children understand.
You can expose your child to different cultures without having to leave your city! Attending different local festivals and events that celebrate a variety of cultures will allow you and your family to experience many different practices and customs. You can have open conversations about and admire the clothes that people wear, listen to different languages, try new foods, and enjoy great music.
An international pen pal would also be another fantastic way to bring a little culture in and make it more personal. Ask your school if they can help or check out online resources to find penpals.
Music and food from other cultures
Another great way to promote cultural awareness is to do it with cooking! Having your child participate in choosing the recipe, looking at the pictures from that country, learning about why that dish is important to that culture all in the cooking process helps turn mealtime into a teachable moment for everyone. There are so many things you can do to encourage learning through cooking. Using foods that originate from different places can teach them about other countries and the types of food they rely on and can also develop an appreciation for the impact that importing foods has. You can also talk about the types of foods that grow and thrive in that specific climate and if there is a story behind the certain food you are making--is it a simple, everyday meal elsewhere or is it featured especially in celebrations?
While you're busy in the kitchen, select some music from the chosen country, dress the table with some simple yet meaningful decorations, and look forward to a delicious feast complete with carefully curated dinner music!
Holidays and traditions that are different from yours
Teaching your children about your own holiday traditions is important for your own culture but you can still teach them about how people celebrate holidays in other countries. You can research, read and talk about other traditions with books, television and documentaries, by making crafts and incorporating some of the decorations and celebrations from around the world into your own home.
Being mindful of other cultures and their traditions can also help your child be inclusive to others in daycare and school. When children have more familiarity with conventions that aren't like theirs, they are naturally more accepting, curious and this can help them grow into children, teens, and adults who are open minded and tolerant of differences, regardless of skin colour or cultural background.
Above all, the most powerful and easiest tool that you have to teach your children about this topic is yourself. Be a model and show them that you are accepting of everyone. From neighbours and co-workers, to teachers and grocery store staff, be kind and engaged and your child will follow suit. Stand up for those who are being bullied, stand up against racism, homophobia and misogyny, and show your child with your actions that no matter what, we all deserve dignity, safety, and joy. We all share the same feelings and emotions regardless of the language we speak, the clothes we wear, or the way we look.
*Originally published December 1, 2016