Today's kids are growing up in a globalized world. But how do you teach them to embrace and thrive among the planet's many cultures — from Boston to Bangkok?
Travel is an obvious answer, but far-flung trips may not figure into your vacation budget. Raising global kids doesn't have to break the bank or feel like another task for your to-do list. Instead, make it a fun exploration and a unique opportunity to learn, enjoy, explore, and grow.
Here are seven ways to get started:
1. "See" the World — At Home
Hang a world map in a high-traffic spot so kids get familiar with (and curious about) country and city names, locations, cultures, and languages. Place a globe where they can reach it and they're sure to spin it and imagine far-off places.
Consider other decorative items that have a global connection. Some items will come with a story, like a rug woven by women working to improve their lives. Look for picture books that feature houses, gardens, recipes, or sports in far-off places. Do you have examples of foreign currency? Frame them and hang them on the wall as conversation pieces.
2. Talk It Up
International news reports are full of difficult subjects, but you can find gentler ways to start a conversation. Perhaps a friend has an ethnic celebration coming up or kids from another country have just enrolled at your child's school.
Check your clothing labels. Was your T-shirt made in Peru, Bangladesh, or China? Find those places on your map and talk about what life might be like there.
You don't have to be an expert. Just your sincere interest serves as a powerful example that you care about the larger world.
3. Let Music Send a Message
You don't need to stop what you're doing to declare "Now we're going to listen to world music!" Just slip it into your music rotation. Dance to it while making dinner, listen while driving, or turn on a soothing selection at bedtime. You and your kids will hear lyrics in foreign languages and you'll also hear English sung with varied accents.
4. Spice Up Family Movie Night
Try a family-friendly foreign film, especially those told from a child's point of view. Where would you like to go tonight — Mongolia, Ireland, or India?
Make it a global snacking experience, too. Find an ethnic grocery store near you and ask the storekeeper to recommend best-selling snacks to pair with your movie.
5. Give Gifts of the World
Handmade art and crafts make terrific gifts. It's even better when you know the artisan benefited directly from the sale. Consider buying teacher, holiday, and birthday presents from a fair-trade store in your town or online. Kids can find meaning and pride in a purchase that connects them to the bigger world.
6. Dip Into a Foreign Language
Find out if your child's school teaches any foreign languages. Can you support the effort or help get a program started? At home, try online learning programs and language software. Play games with your kids to practice their skills or help with an after-school foreign language club.
Do you know a friend or neighbor who speaks a foreign language you and your kids would like to learn? Maybe you can arrange for informal tutoring.
7. Set Out to Serve
Offer your time and resources to make a difference. It cultivates empowerment, motivation, and a sense of global connection. Serving helps make it real for both you and your kids.
Where to start? Talk to local people already engaged in service. You also can take a look at U.S. and global programs making a difference on websites like GlobalLiving.com.
A global perspective can begin a family adventure that connects us with diverse communities and helps us see beyond our immediate circumstances. It also prepares kids to succeed in an interconnected economy and society. Locally and globally, it's a win-win-win.