We are more globally-minded now than any other time in history, but there's more to cultural diversity than eating Chinese food. Here are ways to teach your children about the world one evening at a time.
As my sister and I were sitting in a lovely cafe eating hummus, tabuli, dolma and falafel, we began talking about how much more culturally diverse we are now than we were when we were children.
The world is becoming smaller and we are able to chat on the Internet with folks from all over the globe. It is not uncommon to eat tacos or stir-fry or gyros with our families. But it is more important to understand the cultures they come from. It behooves us to reach deeper into the cultures of the world and encourage our families to do the same.
One idea is to host cultural awareness evenings. Here are some ideas on how to do that:
Plan ahead and make actual invitations that can be scrapbooked. Include a phrase written in the language of the place you will be celebrating. The Internet makes it easy to do this. There are a multitude of translators (Google, Bing, etc.) to help you.
In the invitation, make an assignment to each family member based on age and ability. Children can look up recipes, make a shopping list, and prepare meals. Assign different reports (economics, government, traditions, religion, etc.) and point out differences and commonalities with your own culture.
Find a list of authors, artists, musicians, etc. from that culture and display examples of their works.
If possible, try to closely simulate the traditional dress from that country and wear it. If that is too costly or inconvenient, show photos of their fashion and style.
Don't be afraid to teach the hardships that are faced by members of the society that you are learning about. If it suits your family, perhaps you can plan a small service project to aid in someone's struggles (make a quilt, a donation or write letters of comfort). While you are at it, you might want to pray for the leaders of the countries that you are learning about. Everyone can use some divine help and guidance.
Teach them how to say "I love you" or some other phrase in the language du jour. The online translators have audio available to learn from.
You can also talk about your extended family history and their various countries where your family came from.
Have a world map or globe handy to point out where they are.
Keep the evening upbeat and positive, teach them how to appreciate diversity.
Keep a family book of these evenings and call it something like "Our Family's World Travels" and post reports, photos, menus, invitations, etc. in them.
There is so much bigotry, mistrust and fear in our society and most of it stems from misunderstanding and forgetting the fact that we all ultimately came from the same parents. Creating cultural understanding will help to eradicate some of those misunderstandings.
There is no way to emphasize enough that it is our responsibility as parents to teach our children to love and understand diversity, showing them the things we have in common with others and showing love and trust in our differences. These are important steps in turning out children who will live in an increasingly global society. Peace, love and compassion stem from simply understanding what others are about. It's time to stamp out the doctrine of hate that is seeping into our lives.