I know from my Facebook feed that there can sometimes be a sense of hopelessness and fear when the news shows us so much conflict and tragedy in the world. However I feel we all have more power than we realise as parents, especially when we aim to consciously raise global citizens. Follow that link to an interesting article from Wikipedia, which describes how more and more people are forming an identity with a “global community” above their identity as a citizen of a particular nation or place. This wonderful international community we have within Delft MaMa is full of living examples what it can be like to be a global citizen.
No doubt you already incorporate many day-to-day ways of teaching your children how interesting and special the world and its cultures are, and how they themselves are a part of it. This can be a very broad concept, but here are five practical tips from my own experience or raising two little global citizens (now aged 7 & 9).
- Build a conscious connection with your own and other cultures
My own father moved from Italy to Australia in the early 1950’s. Back then, the message from the Australian government and society in general was along the lines of “you’re an Australian now, forget your past culture and build a new life here”. It was actually discouraged to speak your native tongue in favour of English. It was no doubt good-intentioned at the time, for what they then thought would make for an easier integration. However I’m very grateful that now, it’s much more widely recognised that it’s not only possible, but beneficial, to have a strong connection with more than one culture.
Myself, my husband and our two children are all dual national Dutch Australians. Our family have spent a number of years living in each country, and always work on building a conscious connection with both. For example, when we were living in Australia, we started up a Dutch playgroup and now we are back in the Netherlands, we talk regularly about Australia and get together with Australian friends. We’ve also found that the girl’s school is very interested to have us talk to the class each year about Australian culture. We also try to visit every year or two, speak on Skype often with family and friends, follow some news there, read books and listen to Australian songs.
We also regularly take the girls to events to introduce them to other cultures – for example, there are a number of multicultural festivals in Australia and the Netherlands we’ve been to that are great fun. When we come across a mention of a culture we are not familiar with, we make a fun project out of researching it. One fantastic way to do this is through the One Globe Kids app.
It’s most common that you and your children will be motivated to connect with the cultures of your birth and heritage, but you may also have a strong interest in another which you may have no specific ties – like I do myself for Scotland, and have no idea why. I indulged this once many years ago by attending the Edinburgh Tattoo, and sat there wishing I had at least some Scottish blood. Perhaps I do! Do you or your children have a fascination with a specific country or culture beyond birth connections? I encourage you to explore this!
I also wish that I felt more connected with the Italian culture of my heritage, but find that though my father never actually taught me the language, I still recognised a lot more than I realised when I travelled to Italy. So you do still manage to absorb a lot, even if it’s not conscious, but I do believe this is something that you need to really make time for and work on. It’s also never too late to start.
2. Encourage a love of language
A core part of a culture is language and raising children multi- or bilingually has countless benefits. Eowyn Crisfield is an expert on the topic, originally from Canada but now living in The Hague. She has run a previous workshop for Delft MaMa and you can read much more about this topic on her blog. Depending on your family’s situation, it may be easy for you to incorporate more than one language into your daily life, but even if not, simply fostering a love of language in your children is a great start. For example, discussing with them from an early age about different languages in the world, and allowing them to be exposed to the sounds of other languages – for example in a song. Every now and then we check out a YouTube video in another language for fun, and try to guess what is being said. In our house, we have always aimed to alternate bedtime stories between Dutch and English which works well.
3. Taste international food flavours regularly
Even the most basic weekly family menu is likely to have international influences. But are your children aware of this? Our girls love spaghetti, fajitas, papadums, nasi and sushi and we make a point of discussing the origins of the food they are eating at the dinner table. We ask now and then if they know/remember which country the meal was first associated with, and how it may have been adapted for “local” tastes, or as it’s become popular around the world – pizza is one great example here. We also encourage them to try different tastes regularly. We have one child who is a lot more adventurous than the other here, but regardless, I believe it opens their eyes to the way others in the world may eat differently and this is something that can be fun.
4. Have a map or globe in your house
My girls (and I!) have always been fascinated by a world map. This can be even more fun if you can get hold of those great globes that I remember spending ages spinning as a kid, imagining flying around the world. At the moment, I have a mini one which is actually a pencil sharpener we bought for just a euro or two. Google Maps and Globe are another alternative you can show your children – we sometimes “fly” around the world to random places. This visual representation is one way to help understand our place in the world and how we are all connected.
5. Foster international friendships
Delft MaMa makes this really easy! I absolutely loved attending Delft MaMa playgroups in the past, with more nationalities and cultures than I could count. Now my girls are a little older, we have designated Wednesday afternoons when they are free from school as “English afternoons”, which we started doing through developing the Kids English Club. This has been a great way for them to practice the English language and form international friendships. We have also stayed in touch with a couple of their friends in Australia, whom we visit on each trip and Skype a few times each year. Pen friends are also an idea older children may enjoy, and which is something I loved myself when I was a child.
So those are just five tips to get started on consciously raising global citizens. There are many many more. Overall, having an awareness of world cultures, actively discussing these with your children, and bringing aspects into your daily family life can enrich your life and contribute to bringing more peace, understanding and hope to the world.
Do you already do something similar? Or did this post inspire you to try something new? Please feel free to also add your own feedback and tips in a comment below!