Why Cultural Immersion Is So Important for Kids (& How to Make It Happen)

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Recently, there has been an explosion of information and resources for parents on social privilege and social responsibility. As a result, many parents and children are having deeper conversations about racism and other systems of bias and how to act as an effective change agent.

All this conversation is important, but remember, social justice parenting is broader than activism. It doesn’t just mean preparing your children to stand up for diversity, equity, and inclusion; it also means teaching your children to be authentically sensitive, loving, and empathic. According to Race, Class, and Parenting: 7 Strategies for Raising Sensitive, Confident and Loving Kids, the key is training your children to be curious, rather than judgmental about other people and cultures. By encouraging cultural immersion with your kids, you’ll be opening their eyes and hearts to a whole new world.

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Model Curiosity for Your Kids

Journalist Ian Leslie explains, “Curiosity is a combination of intelligence, persistence, and hunger for novelty.  Curiosity will also enable your children to be humble and adaptable.”

You can model constructive cultural curiosity for your kids by the way you comment about different people:

“That’s a pretty scarf she is wearing on her head…I wonder if it has a special meaning.”

“I wonder what language they are speaking…it sounds cool.”

“I have never seen that food before…I wonder how it tastes.”

“Her hair looks really pretty. I wonder how long it took her to style it that way.”

As you demonstrate how to be curious, your children will develop open-mindedness and charisma that will carry them far in their lives and careers.

Related: How I Explain Racism to My White Friends (So They Can Explain It to Their Kids)

cultural immersion with grandparents
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Give Your Child Cultural Immersive Experiences

It is a rewarding process to raise children who are curious rather than judgmental. We need to do a better job of giving our kids more immersive experiences. Take them to concerts to experience different kinds of music and dance. Travel to foreign countries (and leave the resort). Encourage them to learn new languages.

When your children are immersed in new cultural environments, they will organically learn to have respect and empathy for the experiences, talents, and perspectives of others. The most beautiful part about this process is the nuance in their understanding of how we are all different, but how we all share a common humanity.

two boys laughing at jokes for kids
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Help Your Children Learn Humility and Adaptability

There is a difference between having one or two friends from a minority group and immersing yourself in a different cultural context.  In communities that are not very diverse, it does not require as much humility and adaptability for a child from the majority group to find commonality between themselves and one of the few children of color in the school or neighborhood.  On the other hand, if a child attends a religious service or goes to a cultural festival, or travels to a country where they become the minority in that context, much more is required intellectually and emotionally. This kind of growth is the goal of social justice parenting.

enjoy cultural immersion by eating sushi
Vinicus Benedit via Unsplash

Feed Their Curiosity

Food is one of the most fun and simple ways to experience cultural immersion. The foods people cook are a reflection of their natural environment and historical geography. Although we may not all have the opportunity or means to travel all around the world, we can still give our children the opportunity to learn about these places and cultures through food.

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