As a mom, life gets busy. A lot. So why is being culturally competent important? And why should I spend the time making sure my kids are culturally competent?
As a human being, it’s my responsibility.
The world is diverse, and it’s my job to teach my kids how to navigate in that world.
Not doing so puts my children at a huge disadvantage.
Growing up on an Air Force Base, being culturally competent came naturally to me. Every neighbor was either in an interracial relationship, had lived/traveled abroad, or spoke more than 1 language. Being culturally competent may seem like a foreign idea to some. You many not think it’s important because you live in a small, rural area. Or, your community may be filled with people who look and sound like you.
Being culturally competent may seem like a foreign idea to some. You many not think it’s important because you live in a small, rural area. Or, your community may be filled with people who look and sound like you.
However, at some point, your children may move outside of that community. Don’t you want them to have every opportunity that is available to them? I’m sure you don’t want their experiences to be limited due to lack of exposure.
Here are 6 ways you can help your child to be culturally competent:
Learn a Language as a Family
Thanks to technology, this is relatively easy. You can purchase Rosetta Stone (they even have home school curriculum!). If you don’t have the funds to purchase that program, there are a plethora of free resources on YouTube.
You can also purchase channels through streaming devices (such as Roku) that introduce your kids to a variety of languages. Happy Kids tv & Little Pim are two channels that my kids enjoy and they are totally free!
Visit Local Historic Sites
America is a melting pot, therefore it is rich in many different cultures. You can find historic sites to visit in your own state without traveling very far.
Savannah, Georgia is known for its St. Patrick’s Day parade and activities. One year my husband and I actually met someone from Ireland while attending St. Patrick’s day activities.
Learn about Different Cultures through Food
Take your kids to restaurants with authentic cuisine. Have them practice speaking a language that you have learned at home. Encourage them to ask questions about the food on the menu. My favorite experience is the time we went to a Peruvian restaurant in Patterson, NJ.
Neither my husband or I are fluent in Spanish, but we pride ourselves on our basic communication skills. I decided to order my water with lemon (agua con lemon) in Spanish. When my drink came out, it was lemonade!
I didn’t even consider that Spanish dialect differs from country to country. Thankfully the food was delicious and I was happy with my lemonade.
Attend Multicultural Festivals
Attending a multicultural festival is the perfect way to experience immersion. This will help your children to have an appreciation for cultures that differ from their own. Spend time discussing the experience with your kids after the festival. The last festival I attended was on campus at Georgia Southern University.
If you reside in a college town, the university is chock full of cultural experiences. Most campuses even have an International Department. Check with them for a calendar of events throughout the year.
If your budget allows, this is the best form of immersion. My parents are Jamaicans and all my extended family are Jamaicans. Most of my immediate and extended family are in the United States. I visited as a child, but had no memory.
When my husband and I took a vacation to Montego Bay & Ocho Rios in my 20’s, all the stories I heard about Jamaica came to life. Reading about Jamaica, looking at pictures and talking to family members did not hold a candle to experiencing it myself.
Explore your Own Cultural Background
You may be surprised at what investigating your roots will reveal! A friend of mine recently did a search through ancestry.com and was surprised to find out that she had a blond haired blue eyed cousin when mostly everyone in her family has brown skin.
When I went to Jamaica, I felt connected to the country in so many ways.
I heard everyone singing and I felt at peace. My friends often tease me for having a song for every conversation. Music has always been a huge part of my life and I realized that it was in my blood. When we left the resort, I was in tears because I felt like I was leaving a piece of my heart there. I returned two years later with my daughter.
As an educator, I know that modeling is a powerful tool in teaching kids appropriate behaviors. Modeling cultural competence is the best way to teach your kids how to take an interest in differences.
Sometimes discrimination is bred from ignorance and lack of exposure. Expose your children to the world around them!