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Cultural diversity and inclusion: How to teach your kids to be global citizens

Nikki Stevenson

Nikki Stevenson

Nikki is a parenting writer and a mom to three wild boys who keep her on her toes (and occasionally make her question her sanity). With over 15 years of experience in the parenting industry, she has more tips and tricks than Mary Poppins on speed dial. When she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can find her sipping on coffee, hiding in the bathroom for five minutes of...
Created on Oct 30, 2023 · 6 mins read

As a writer born and bred in South Africa, I am constantly reminded of our nation’s rich cultural diversity. My three young sons – a riotous bundle of energy, questions, and curiosity – are growing up in a world that’s shrinking. Technology, globalisation, and immigration have brought the corners of the world closer than ever. A melting pot of cultures, languages, and traditions lies at their fingertips, waiting to be explored.


I remember being a young child and marvelling at the rainbow nation that bloomed in the aftermath of apartheid. I witnessed firsthand the importance of understanding, respect, and empathy in bridging cultural divides. These experiences have shaped my worldview, and, as a parent, they underpin my approach to raising my sons.

Just as my experiences in South Africa shaped me, I recognise that my sons are part of a globally interconnected generation. They will navigate a world where cultural intelligence and a sense of global citizenship are not just beneficial but essential. That’s why I believe it’s my duty to equip them with these skills – to prepare them for a world that’s beautifully diverse and wonderfully interconnected.

So, how can we, as parents, foster cultural intelligence and global citizenship in our children? Below are some practical strategies and insights to help you on this journey. After all, the children of today are the leaders of tomorrow. By nurturing these qualities in them, we are contributing to a more understanding, inclusive, and compassionate future.

Understanding the Concepts: Cultural Intelligence and Global Citizenship


It all starts with understanding what we’re talking about. Cultural Intelligence, or CQ, is not about being a trivia champ on world cultures. It’s about having the skills to function effectively in various cultural contexts – be it national, ethnic, organisational, or generational. It’s much like emotional intelligence but with a global twist.

Now, when we talk about global citizenship, we’re talking about people who are aware of the wider world, respect and value diversity and are willing to play their part in this global society. It’s about the realisation that we’re all in this together, on this blue dot in the middle of the cosmos.


Fostering Cultural Intelligence: The Role of the Home Environment


So, how do we make our homes and children a hotbed for cultural intelligence? It’s actually simpler than it might sound:

Experience-Based Learning: Consider taking your kids to cultural festivals, events, or exhibitions in your local community. These experiences offer first-hand insights into different cultures.

Inclusive Media Consumption: Make your next family movie night a global adventure, or travel through the pages of a book set elsewhere. Media from different cultures can be a great way to expose your child to the world.

Encouraging Open Dialogue: Don’t shy away from discussing global issues or cultural norms. Having these conversations at home can encourage critical thinking and respect for different perspectives.


Nurturing Global Citizens: Practical Strategies for Parents


Raising global citizens is like planning a journey. It’s about having a roadmap and knowing which pit stops to make. Here are some of the most essential ‘pitstops’ you need to focus on:

Cultivating empathy and promoting understanding. This can help your child form more profound connections with people from diverse cultures.

Promoting language learning by encouraging your child to learn a new language. This can be an exciting gateway to another culture and broaden their horizons.

As mentioned above, discussing current affairs and social issues at a global level will encourage a greater sense of global responsibility.

Navigating Different Views: Equipping Children for Difficult Conversations


Navigating differing world views is a part of life we all must contend with eventually. Children will inevitably encounter individuals who do not share their global and diverse perspectives, including close family and friends. When it comes to our children, we can equip them with the right tools to gracefully manoeuvre these situations. Start with instilling the importance of respectful listening. This skill is the foundation of understanding, as it allows for the comprehension of diverse viewpoints, even if there’s disagreement.

Then, guide them on how to express their views in a thoughtful and respectful manner. This is not just about voicing an opinion but doing so in a way that promotes constructive dialogue and understanding. Finally, empowering them to be assertive is essential. Encourage them to stand up for their beliefs, but always with empathy and respect. It’s this delicate balance that will enable them to hold firm on their views while maintaining harmonious interactions.

Let’s imagine they’re in a conversation where a friend or family member expresses a view that contradicts what your child has been taught about acceptance and inclusivity.

First, it’s important to remind your child to take a breath and remain calm. Getting defensive is easy, but lashing out rarely leads to constructive conversation.

To practice respectful listening, they might say, “I see that we have different views. Can you tell me more about why you feel this way?” This response shows that your child is interested in understanding the other person’s perspective, not just defending their own.

When it comes to expressing their views, guide them to use assertive but respectful phrases, such as, “I understand where you’re coming from, but I have a different idea about this. Can I tell you?” This approach opens a space for them to voice their opinion without shutting down the other person.

Remind them that it’s okay to assertively express their disagreement without becoming aggressive. A phrase like, “I respect how you feel, but I don’t agree. Here’s why…” allows them to maintain their stance while showing respect for the other person’s opinion.

And if the conversation becomes too heated or unconstructive, stepping back is always okay. They can say something like, “I think we may not agree on this topic at all and will carry on going around in circles. Should we talk about something else instead?”

Remember, the goal isn’t to win the argument but learn from the conversation. It’s about practising understanding, respect, and empathy, even in disagreement.

Parents as Role Models: Demonstrating Cultural Intelligence and Global Citizenship


In this journey, remember that you’re their first role model. Your attitudes towards cultural diversity and global issues can shape their understanding significantly.

Like any journey, there’ll be bumps along the way. Personal biases, resistance from children, or a lack of resources can make the process challenging. But these hurdles also present opportunities for growth and learning.

Cultivating cultural intelligence and global citizenship is an ongoing journey. It requires dedication, patience, and the understanding that learning is a two-way street. You might be surprised at how much you can learn from your child in this process.

Remember, in this interconnected world, raising a global citizen is more than a parental duty; it’s a necessity. It’s about preparing the next generation for a diverse and ever-evolving world. Here’s to creating a future that’s as compassionate and understanding as it is diverse and colourful!

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