PANHANDLE PERSPECTIVES: Cultivating cultural competence in children

        If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships-the ability of all people, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

        The first step to cultivate human relationships starts at home. Children tend to exhibit the behaviors and attitudes that they observe at home.

        If parents want children to value diversity then, it is imperative that parents model respect for all people. In addition, parents must make a conscious effort to provide their children with the skills and tools necessary to become culturally competent children that grow up to become culturally competent adults.

                Research tells us that children become aware of differences, racism and biases early, and can be affected by them. Parents are the primary influence of children’s attitudes toward other cultural groups. Between ages 2 and 5, children become aware of gender, race, ethnicity, and disabilities. They are aware of both the positive and negative bias. Biases based on gender, race disability, or social class creates obstacles and a false sense of superiority for children. And racism attacks the self-esteem of children of color.

        Parents can start by making diversity a part of their daily life and routines. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Create an environment that reflects diversity in toys, literature, artwork, and so on, that reflect all groups of people.
  • Interact with others who are different and provide opportunities for your child at school, daycare, friends, or attend a cultural event together.
  • Talk about diversity; listen to and answer your child’s questions about diversity.
  • As your child gets older teach him or her how to challenge stereotypes appropriately and what to do when witnessing a bias.
  • Most importantly parents must model acceptance and open-mindedness about diversity.
  • Make certain that the school your child attends as well as community and religious organizations you belong to promote respect for diversity.

        Some family activities to cultivate cultural competence:

  • Research your own family’s heritage to help build a sense of pride for your cultural heritage in your child.
  • Discuss issues you may hear in the media or any issues your child may witness and how to respond in an appropriate manner.
  • Learn a second language start with simple words like numbers, colors, and naming objects around your home.
  • Explore the foods of other cultures either by preparing ethnic recipes together at home or dine at an ethnic restaurant.
  • Visit cultural museums.
  • Attend cultural performances such as:  concerts, plays, and dance
  • Attend the festivals and celebrations of other cultures.  If you’re a bit apprehensive about attending a cultural celebration/festival for the first time you might want invite a friend from that cultural community to accompany you and your family to the event.

Jackie Guzman, Extension Educator-Scotts Bluff County