Expert Tips for Raising Multicultural Children
We all want to raise perfectly well-rounded, tolerant, accepting, happy kids. Unfortunately, there is no manual to show us how to make that happen.
Although I can’t write you a manual for all of parenting, thanks to some of my favorite multicultural parenting bloggers, and some other wonderful people I’ve met recently, I was able to put together a list of their best tips for raising multicultural children and embracing diversity together as a family to help us get started.
What is multicultural parenting?
In short, multicultural parenting is raising kids with the world in mind.
It sounds easy but I am learning there is more to multicultural parenting than meets the eye.
I used to believe that as a bi-racial bi-lingual family, we were automatically multicultural. I mean, how could we not be?
Then, at the ripe age of three, my son started asking questions about the color of his skin, our home language of choice (Spanish) and other differences that surround us. Instead of embracing diversity, he was confused and slightly appalled by it.
I was horrified. How could he not love his Mexican heritage?
I do- I am jealous of it. Secretly, I wish I could place some sort of valid claim on the people and culture that have stolen my heart.
Then it hit me.
That was exactly what was missing. We never taught him about the people or the culture that formed his identity. We just thought he knew.
Multicultural parenting is intentionally teaching our children about the cultural differences, ideas, and traditions that surround them and those that don’t. Multicultural parenting is proactively exposing our children to the world.
The Best Tips for Raising Multicultural Children
To help us begin intentionally exposing our children to the world, check out these amazing tips for raising multicultural children.
Tip 1: Teach your children to value education.
Teaching my children who are growing up in the US that access to education is not a right and not free in many countries. We talk about school fees and book fees vs the property tax payment for schools for all.
– Elizabeth P., Teacher and Mom
As a former teacher, I have to agree with Elizabeth. I think that if our students in more developed countries knew what a privilege free education is, they would value school more.
Tip 2: Find a Multicultural Classroom
As we all know that school is where children spend most of their time, choosing a safe and multicultural classroom is as important as other elements. This is actually one of the best ways to expose diversity to the children. According to Malcolm Gladwell in the bestselling book “Outlier” says that the children are more influenced by their peers than by their parents. The cultural diversity and multinational teacher population in the school are essential. In the long run, growing and learning in a multicultural classroom gives children a greater understanding of other aspects beliefs and behaviors. -Hsin blogger at Nanani.World
Tip 3: Have a global dinner! Learn how here.
Chose a culture to explore, eat the culture’s cuisine, listen to its music, you can even watch a film set there or explore a landmark on GoogleEarth! -Ashley, Blogger at Little Explorers Big World
I love that this idea is so easy and accessible for everyone. I will definitely be adding a global dinner to our weekend plans in the near future. Thank you Ashley!
Tip 4: Expose your children to as many cultures as possible.
Start with your own culture; teaching your children about the language and the traditions including dress, the food, and any special festivals or celebrations. Then also expose them to other cultures. Try to mix with multicultural friends, celebrate multicultural events, read diverse books, try different foods, visit different countries if possible. Basically, build your children’s curiosity about the rest of the world. -Chontelle, blogger at Bilingual Kid Spot
Expose them to different cultures. Meeting people from other cultures, try different food, travel, books and music. -Zulay
Expose your children to different cultures at an early age through everyday activities. -Naa Ardua blogger at Paper Flo Designs. You can learn even more about how Naa Ardua embraces diversity with her kids by listening to our live interview!
It’s all about exposure. In an ideal world, your children would interact with people of many colors, languages, ages, abilities, and religions. This also extends to the books we read and the shows we watch. If all the bedtime books we read only feature white kids from hetero-normative families, and if all the superheroes are English-speaking white kids, then these become the “ideal.” It takes work to be conscious of these issues, but when the heroes in our kids’ favorites books and movies better reflect the diversity of the real world, then I think it’s easier for kids to see value in people of all shapes and sizes. I also think many parents are worried about their kids saying something rude or insensitive when it’s only natural for young kids to notice and comment on people with different skin colors or manners of dress. Including these types of characters in our media gives kids a chance to ask questions. Many of us were raised to be “color-blind,” when this honestly does a disservice to the really cool and unique parts of our cultures and heritages. -Elizabeth, blogger at Simple Tender Joyful
Tip 5: Travel
Travel, travel, TRAVEL! Our kids never would have learned to appreciate other cultures without having been immersed in them. -Susan a mother of 6, podcaster and blogger at Wanderlust Families
Want to learn more about long term family travel? Check out our live interview with Susan!
The Best Tips for Embracing Diversity Together as a Family
One of my favorite quotes is, “you can’t teach a child a skill that you don’t possess yourself .” -Becky Bailey.
This is why, in the Embracing Diversity Challenge, we focus on adult learning first. We have to start the movement and set the tone. The best way to do that is to begin embracing diversity together as a family. Here are some great ideas to get started.
Tip 1: Listen
Listening to stories from my mother in law about growing up and going to school in her home country. – Elizabeth P. Teacher and Mom
Listening is something many of us have forgotten how to do well. “Effective listening requires concentration and the use of your other senses,” Skills you Need reminds us. I don’t know about you but I struggle to fully concentrate and listen with all my senses.
However, our children learn through observation. By watching us truly listen and value the opinion of others, they will begin to do the same. Take advantage of the opportunities we have to learn from others.
Tip 2: Learn
I (Ashley) create themed units around different world cultures (which are available for free here). We’ve been doing these units together at home for some time now. In March, we moved to Italy – so now we are learning a lot about Italian culture first-hand! -Ashley, Blogger at Little Explorers Big World. You can follow Ashley’s adventures in Italy on Instagram @doppioornothin.
Tip 3: Travel
We travel as much as possible to visit different places and immerse ourselves in other cultures. Our children speak English, Italian, and some Spanish, but we also learn bits and pieces of other languages together as well. -Chontelle, blogger at Bilingual Kid Spot
We took a massive step and moved overseas. The benefits of this type of cultural immersion are incredible (you can read all about them here), but it goes further than just learning new languages and ways of life. As American expats in Guatemala, we are part of a very privileged group. So, for our family, embracing diversity means showing respect, curiosity, and excitement about those we meet — from our housekeeper to the traditional Mayan family having a BBQ near us at the park. My proudest moment as a mom happened when my three-year-old plopped down next to a severely disabled child at the orphanage where we had brought toys for Christmas. She played gently and quietly with the child for ten minutes, looked at me, and commented, “Mom, he only speaks Spanish.” She hadn’t registered the other differences, nor had they impeded her desire to just play together. That was one of those moments when I knew we were on the right track. -Elizabeth, blogger at Simple Tender Joyful
Tip 4: Make diversity part of your everyday life.
We are a diverse, multicultural family. I’m Chinese, born in Costa Rica, my husband is Caucasian American. We have friends and neighbors from different countries, cultures, religions. Diversity is part of our daily life as we learn about cultures, read books, listen to music, try different foods. -Zulay
We have made a point to expose our children to the everyday people of other cultures. Instead of fearing other races and people of other religions, our kids understand that we all have the same basic desires to be happy, healthy and lead good lives. It took us getting out of our home country to really embrace this. -Susan a mother of 6, podcaster and blogger at Wanderlust Families.
Get books and toys that have multicultural characters. We go to the library and pick books that have real children as the main character and not only animals. That way, they get to see themselves as the hero in the story. -Naa Ardua from Paper Flo Designs
The Last Thing You Need to Know about Raising Multicultural Children
- Raising multicultural children looks different for everyone. Take the advice that serves you and leave the rest. You don’t have to do it all, you just have to do what works for you.
- Our children need us to intentionally teach them how to view the world around them. If we don’t help them build a worldview, someone else will. Expose your children to differences without fear!
- This is a lifelong journey. Embrace it and enjoy it.
Do you have a tip for raising multicultural children or embracing diversity together as a family? Leave your tip below, don’t be shy! Let’s make this list the ultimate resources for those of us on the journey to raise multicultural children.