{     Offering the Best Childhood Preparation for Social and Academic Success.     }

Posts Tagged ‘World Cultures’

Teaching Diversity to Your Kids

56765.png

Studies have found that infants as young as 3 months instinctively categorize people based on their sex, skin color, and the language they speak. Between 5 and 9 months, babies begin to learn about race based on experience, according to a study in the journal Developmental Science. Research shows that 3- to 5-year-olds not only categorize people by race but express bias based on it. Overcoming these types of inherent prejudice will take a proactive effort on your part, and it needs to start early – before your child’s opinions are fully formed.

Tolerance is an absolute necessity in our increasingly global and multicultural society. So-called racial and ethnic minorities now make up the majority of children born in the U.S. By 2043, nearly half of the population will be people of color, according to U.S. Census projections. Our nation is becoming diverse in other ways too. Islam and Mormonism are among America’s fastest-growing religions. Same-sex marriage is legal in 37 states plus the District of Columbia. More than 35 million people now speak Spanish as their primary language at home. And our school system is increasingly placing children with disabilities in regular rather than specialized classrooms.

“Today’s kids are going to have to interact with people from many backgrounds and cultures, as well as with those who don’t look or act like they do,” says Rebecca Bigler, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin, whose research focuses on children’s racial attitudes. “Celebrating diversity, not merely tolerating it, is going to be key to their success.” She and others share the steps you can take to teach your child how to be open-minded toward others.

Recognize That Your Child Isn’t Color-Blind

Experts say one big mistake parents make (especially white Americans) is assuming that their children are unaware of race. “We always hear, ‘Oh, my child doesn’t even see skin color,'” Dr. Bigler says. “But kids absolutely do notice.”

As they grow, children look for cues about what different appearances mean and which ones matter. They quickly realize that some things– whether someone wears a hat, for example – are irrelevant while others, such as sex, are significant because we talk about them constantly (“Boys line up on the left, girls on the right”). What about race? Obviously, we don’t say, “Good morning, black and white children,” or “Asians, go get your backpacks.” But even if you never say a word about ethnicity, racial distinctions are plainly visible to kids. “Many communities are highly segregated, which children notice. You’ll be driving through town and your preschooler is thinking, ‘Oh, here’s where the Chinese people live,'” Dr. Bigler says.

Children’s tendency to assign traits based on race accelerates in grade school. So if all the teachers at your child’s school are white while only people of color work in the lunchroom and handle security, the inequity will not be lost on your kid. By age 7, most African-American kids believe whites are more likely to hold high-status jobs, according to Dr. Bigler’s study findings. “If you don’t change your kids’ outlook when they’re young, they’ll come to their own incorrect conclusions,” says Kristina Olson, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Washington, who studies racial attitudes among kids.

Start Talking

Aside from observing skin color, even a preschooler can see that some people are big and others are skinny, that some celebrate Christmas and others Hanukkah, and that certain kids are smarter than others. And if your local gas-station attendant has a thick accent, she’ll notice that too.

Are you talking about these differences? Probably not. A study published in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology found that approximately 57 percent of parents of white children never or almost never discussed race with them. Black parents, though, are far more likely to bring it up. “People of color have to prepare their children for uncomfortable moments,” says Shauna Robinson, of Thousand Oaks, California, who is black. She broached the topic with her then 5-year-old son, Lexington, by reading him Chocolate Me!, which is about a boy who is teased for having dark skin and curly hair.

With a child who is 3 or 4, you can explain that people come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. “You could even try holding up a green apple and a red apple,” suggests Maureen Costello, director of the Teaching Tolerance project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, in Montgomery, Alabama. “Say, ‘They look different on the outside, but they’re both apples on the inside, just like people.'” Seek out opportunities to demonstrate your respect and appreciation for these contrasts. You might say, “Look at that girl. Aren’t her braids pretty?” or, “Did you hear that boy speak Italian to his grandma and then English to his friend? I wish I could speak more than one language.”

If your child asks something that makes you squirm, do your best to respond matter-of-factly. “We tend to avoid these questions,” says Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D., author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race. “But that doesn’t keep kids from noticing.”

Dr. Tatum recalls a mortifying moment when her then 4-year-old son pointed to a large woman and said loudly, “Mommy, why is that woman so fat?” “My first response was to say ‘Shhh!'” Dr. Tatum says. “Then I caught myself and told him, ‘People come in all sizes. Some people are big and some are little, some are tall and some are short.'”

Explain about Stereotypes and Racism

Kids already have certain biases about other cultures by age 5 or 6. Don’t be surprised if your child repeats something derogatory she heard at school.  When she does, let her know that while some people in a group may seem to fit a certain description it doesn’t mean everyone is that way, Costello says. That’s your cue to introduce the idea of discrimination: “Sometimes people decide that everyone with dark skin is mean or that people who aren’t white are bad. That’s wrong, and it makes me sad. It’s not fair to judge someone without knowing him or her.”

Bring up the stereotypes your child sees in movies and on TV. “If you turn the sound off on cartoon shows and ask who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy, kids know instantly by the way the characters appear,” Dr. Tatum says. The solution isn’t to stop watching but to point out the problems you see. For instance, you could watch The Little Mermaid, with its enormous villain, Ursula. Then say, “It’s a shame that overweight characters are depicted as evil. I know lots of nice people who are heavy.”

You should also be honest about the fact that discrimination still exists. “If you talk about past inequalities and then tell your child, ‘We’ve fixed that and we’re all equal now,’ it can actually encourage prejudicial beliefs because children will see remaining inequalities as the result of how hard people work,” says Erin Winkler, Ph.D., a diversity and racism expert at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. “Instead, talking honestly about systematic racial bias – like how wealth inequity is not a reflection of individual efforts, but rather tied to the legacy of discrimination – can help your child understand that these are not individual issues.”

Research bears this out. Dr. Bigler had elementary-school children read biographies of famous African Americans. One group’s stories included details about how the person had encountered forms of racial discrimination; the other group’s didn’t. Afterward, the kids whose books included the true historical context found the subjects more likable and sympathetic.

Lead by Example

For your child to become truly open-minded toward all people, you need to be a positive role model. In a study in Child Development, the lone factor shown to reduce children’s prejudice was whether their parents had a friend of another race. “If you say, ‘We should be friends with all kinds of people’ but the only ones who come over for dinner are those who look like you, what’s your child going to think?” Dr. Olson says.

Lots of parents talk a good game about embracing diversity, yet subtly communicate something very different. Do you laugh when you hear a joke about a racial group? Are you willing to point out intolerance when you see it? “We know that kids learn from what they see more than from what they hear,” Costello says.

Expose Your Child to Diversity Regularly

An analysis of more than 500 studies on prejudice published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that the more contact people of all ages have with those from backgrounds that contrast with their own, the less likely they are to be biased.

Rebecca Anderson, a mom in Charlotte, North Carolina, chose a preschool for her son Zach where half the children had physical disabilities. “I believed that exposing him to special-needs kids would make him more accepting of all people,” she says. When it came time for kindergarten, she and her husband, who are white, decided to send Zach to a Spanish-immersion magnet school that was only about one-quarter white. Now in sixth grade, Zach is not only fluent in Spanish but comfortable around all kinds of people, Anderson says.

If you don’t have the option of enrolling your child in a diverse school, look for ethnically mixed sports leagues, libraries, and parks. Attend multicultural festivals. Bring home books that depict kids of various backgrounds. Show interest in other religions and cultures, and build friendships with people who don’t look like you. “If you want your child to become comfortable dealing with all types of people, you have to take her to places where she’s going to encounter them,” Costello says.

Julianne Weiner’s son Ben had already had that type of exposure. So before his first anxious day of preschool, she reminded him about the people he knew and liked who had brown skin. She pointed out that there are many shades of skin, even showing him that his hand is darker than his belly. “None of it seemed to register, and we were worried he’d say something that would offend his teacher,” Weiner says. “Instead, Ben had a great year, and that teacher became one of his favorites.”

Smart Answers to Tough Questions

Field cringe-worthy queries without flinching.

“Why is that man’s skin dark?”
“Skin contains something called melanin, which makes us different colors. Some people have more than others. We’re all part of a beautiful rainbow, aren’t we?”

“Why does that girl talk funny?”
“That’s called an accent. Her family came from a country where they speak another language.”

“Why is he in a wheelchair?”
“Some people’s legs don’t work, so they need a chair with wheels to get from place to place.”

“Why is that woman so fat?”
“People come in all shapes and sizes, and that’s what makes the world such an interesting place.”

“Why does that man wear a funny wrap on his head?”
“That’s called a turban. He wears it because it’s part of his religion, like other people may wear a cross.”

 

This article was written by Michelle Crouch from Parents and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

6 Winter Holiday Traditions from Around the World

download (9).png

Help your kids get a sense of life in other countries by introducing them to a variety of holiday rituals celebrated around the globe during this time of year.

Here are a few examples to get your crew exploring different cultures—maybe you’ll even create a new family tradition!

Ethiopia: Here, many families celebrate Christmas on January 7—though most people actually refer to the holiday as either Genna or Ganna, after a hockey-like game that is traditionally played on that afternoon.

The Netherlands: Children set out pairs of shoes on the eve of St. Nicholas Day, December 6. In the middle of the night, St. Nick pays a visit, filling the shoes with small treats such as chocolates, candies, and toys.

Italy: Kids write letters to their parents promising good behavior (and apologizing for recent misdeeds), as well as telling them how much they love them. The letters are then placed under Dad’s plate on Christmas Eve; he reads them all aloud once the meal is through.

Mexico: December 28, Day of the Holy Innocents, is celebrated much in the same way as April Fool’s Day. Children—and adults—play innocent pranks. If successful, the trickster gives his victim a candy treat.

Sweden: St. Lucia Day, December 13, is the beginning of the holiday season; one girl in each home dresses as Lucia, patron saint of light, in a white gown and a crown of leaves—and then wakes everyone by bringing a tray of breakfast treats.

Korea: Families celebrate January 1 by making Duk Gook—also spelled Ddeokguk—or rice-cake soup. According to tradition, enjoying a bowlful on New Year’s Day allows everyone to advance a year in age.

Conversation Starters

Use these talking points—provided by the experts at patheos.com, a site dedicated to world religions—to help your kids understand the meaning behind certain traditions.  

Why do people light candles each night of Hanukkah?

“We light them to remind ourselves of an ancient miracle that occurred after invaders of Israel tried to force the Jewish people to practice a different religion. When they refused, the invaders ransacked their temple, destroying almost everything. The Jews pushed them out, then hurried to restore the holy site. The first time they lit the oil lamp, there was only enough oil for one day. Yet to their surprise, it burned for eight days and nights.”

—Rabbi Keith Stern, leader of Temple Beth Avodah, in Newton, Massachusetts

Why does Kwanzaa last for seven days?

“Inspired by many African nations that hold weeklong harvest celebrations, Kwanzaa was created in the U.S. as an African-American holiday. It draws on these traditions in order to connect African Americans to their African heritage. Each day of Kwanzaa is dedicated to a different principle (including unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith) to help us honor our family, community, and culture.”

—Anthea Butler, Ph.D., associate professor of religion at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia

Why do people exchange Christmas gifts?

“Each year, Christians honor the birth of Jesus more than 2,000 years ago. Shortly after Jesus was born, Magi, often called the wise men, came from the East to Bethlehem and offered the infant gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. As part of the Christmas celebration, we give gifts too—to our friends, family, and the poor and hungry—as a way of remembering the gifts given to Jesus.”

—Rev. Emile R. “Mike” Boutin Jr., co-pastor of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Walpole, Massachusetts

Start Your Own Family Traditions

1. Capture memories

You’ll probably make videos of the gift-giving frenzy anyway, so why not use your phone or camera to record interviews with your kids too? It’s a great way to document their changes from year to year. Try these questions for your annual “exclusive.”

  • What’s your favorite thing we did together as a family this year?
  • Who are your best friends? What do you like about them?
  • How is school this year? Which subject do you enjoy most and why?
  • What do you daydream about?
  • What’s the nicest thing a friend or someone in the family has done for you this year?

2. Lend a hand all year ’round

Volunteering during the holidays gets kids in the habit of helping those in need, but so many families do it that most charities see a huge surge in donations and participation each December—it’s every other time of the year that they need attention. Get your family to keep up the bighearted action in the off-season by…

  • volunteering one afternoon a month at a food bank. For locations, visit feedingamerica.org.
  • sponsoring an underprivileged child abroad. Check out savethechildren.org to make an ongoing impact on someone’s future.
  • asking a local nursing home’s volunteer coordinator about activities your family can help out with regularly, like craft sessions or reading hour.

 

 

Pause and Reflect

3. Pause and reflect

Give your family a chance to think during the holiday rush: During December, share a half-minute of silence each night at dinner. Tell the kids to focus on whatever they like—something good that happened that they’re grateful for, positive thoughts for a sick friend, a wish for the coming year. These moments together each day will help you feel more calm, connected, and appreciative of what you have the rest of the year too.

4. Steal these reader rituals

A unique tradition teaches kids that they’re part of something special—your family—and binds this holiday to future ones.

“One year, the day before Christmas, I was about to snap. So I threw food in a pack and told my family we were having a picnic. Though confused, they went along with it. We live in a mountain valley, so getting to a secluded spot was easy. The downside: It was so cold that the food froze! Our ‘Doomsday Picnic’ has become a tradition (we go better prepared now!). It’s a time to relax—we love it.” —Lynnette F. Harris; Millville, Utah

“Every year during the holidays our entire family sits down to watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It makes us realize that we are not as dysfunctional as we might think!” —Betsy Gravalec; Marietta, Georgia

“To help our kids really understand the holiday, on Christmas morning we throw a birthday party—complete with cake—to celebrate Jesus’s birth. Sometimes the kids seem as excited about the balloons as they are about the gifts!” —Kelly Wilson Mason; Ohio

“Rather than giving gifts to all 17 family members, we each draw a name and then give the money we would have spent on Hanukkah gifts for everyone else as a donation to charity. Before opening presents, we all share what we did with the money to benefit someone less privileged than we are.” —Carol Hochman Dierksen; Orlando, Florida

“Every year, when the first snow falls I make ‘First Day of Snow’ fudge, just like my mom did. You could make it any time, but it just wouldn’t taste the same.” —Kris Wittenberg; Eagle, Colorado

 

This article was written by Jane Nussbaum from Parents and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

5 Family Traditions From Around the World Worth Trying

Celebrate the first day of school, the German way.

The kickoff to first grade is a big deal in Germany, as my American family learned while living in Berlin. The weekend before our daughter started first grade, we joined a celebration called Einschulung. Her school welcomed students with an assembly; afterward, families gave the children Schultüten—large paper or plastic cones filled with school supplies and sweets. When we moved back to the United States, we replicated Einschulung for my son. We invited our family over and asked them to bring a small school-related gift, like a notebook or pen. We made him a Schultüte, and the older kids put on a play about what school is like. It makes the children feel responsible, grown-up, and proud to be going to school.

Sara Zaske is the author of Achtung Baby: An American Mom On The German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children. She Lives in Moscow, Idaho.

traditions.jpg

Honor your ancestors, the Japanese way.

Traditional Japanese homes have a small family altar, or butsudan, as a sign of respect for elders who have passed away. When I go back to my family’s home in Japan, I still feel a spiritual connection to my ancestors as I make offerings at the butsudan—a bowl of rice, flowers for my grandmother, a can of beer for my grandfather. It feels truly healing. To set up a memorial, pick a quiet spot, put out photos, flowers, and other offerings, and tell kids about their ancestors. If we don’t mark our history, we may lose an important part of who we are.

Candice Kumai is a chef and the author of Kintsugi Wellness: The Japanese Art Of Nourishing Mind, Body, and Spirit. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Share your culture through stories, the Trinidadian way.

In Trinidad and Tobago, where I grew up, storytelling happens anytime, anywhere—not just at bedtime. We might be driving to the beach or walking to my grandmother’s house. People often tell folk stories about mythical creatures called jumbies to help explain things people don’t understand, such as a sudden illness. Regardless of where you come from, there is a benefit to telling traditional stories. At some point, I realized my kids, who were growing up in the U.S., had no idea what our folklore was, so I started telling them jumby stories. Telling these stories helps the children preserve their culture.

Tracey Baptiste is the author of Jumbies, part of a fantasy series for middle schoolers. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, she now lives in northern New Jersey.

Care for all animals, the Indian way.

To show gratitude to animals, families in southern India feed cows and birds during the annual Hindu harvest festival of Thai Pongal. Children learn that all species are interconnected and interdependent. I’ve followed this tradition in both India and the United States with my daughters. In Bangalore, I used to take my young daughters to a nearby shed to feed the cows. We also fed birds by placing fruits and grains on banana leaves and putting them out on our terrace—something we also did surreptitiously at our New York City apartment. Pick a day for an annual visit to a petting zoo, butterfly garden, family-friendly farm, or horse stable where you can feed the animals or help care for them. It’s a way to teach children about having compassion for all beings.

Shoba Narayan is the author of The Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected Adventure. She lives in Bangalore, India.

Exchange personal poetry, the Dutch way.

In the Netherlands, families exchange not only gifts but also poems during Sinterklaas, the Dutch winter holiday season. Older children and adults each draw a name and write a poem about the recipient. The poem usually has puns and is funny—the more mischievous and personal, the better. On “gift night,” people sit in a circle with hot drinks, and everyone reads the poem they receive out loud. I’ve learned that the real gift is the love that goes into the poem. You’re taking time to compose something special, letting someone know what they mean to you.

Rina Mae Acosta is a writer, photographer, and coauthor of The Happiest Kids In The World: Bringing Up Children The Dutch Way. She lives in Doorn, The Netherlands.

 

This article was written by Betsy Rubiner from Real Simple and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

World Knowledge Begins at an Early Age

The Goddard School

You may have heard the term ‘world schooling’ recently. World schooling uses travel to teach children about the planet and world cultures. As the use of technology increases, the world has become more interconnected, and one country’s problems can affect our personal lives.

An early educational experience should include a global perspective. At The Goddard School, we provide children with opportunities to learn about other cultures, develop a greater understanding of new ideas and increase compassion for people who may appear very different.

You don’t have to get on a plane with your preschooler to teach her about the world. Here are some ideas to help you share the world with your little one:

  • Cook some recipes from different countries each week;
  • Be open to the world around you, and share it with your children;
  • Learn new words from different languages as a family;
  • Visit museums, go to festivals and attend embassy events;
  • Follow child-friendly international news stories with your family;
  • Read stories about other cultures and families;
  • Listen to a variety of music from around the world, and learn foreign songs;
  • Make a craft based on one from another culture.