Your kids aren’t just Australian, they’re world citizens! And their ‘global’ experience will continue to shape their lives and careers well into the future. Want to know how to best raise your ‘global child’ to make the most of their world citizenship? Read on …
Our children are growing up in a world vastly different to the one we knew when we were kids. While our generation’s Jetson-esque fantasies of the future featuring teleporters, flying family cars and robot housemaids may not have come to pass, some might argue that what has evolved instead is even more astonishing. Today’s technology and travel opportunities don’t just offer our kids endless opportunities for learning, entertainment and communication, they also connect them to the world in ways we could only have imagined when we were their age.
From video calls with friends on the other side of the planet to searching up a foreign address on an online map and viewing it from the street; from immediately accessing information about countries, cultures and landmarks to streaming movies and TV programs from all over the world into your living room, these advances have gifted our kids with ready access to an array of remarkable resources. Combined with the relative affordability and ease of international travel for Australians, the world has become a much smaller and accessible place for our children.
That’s not to say there aren’t negatives – parental guidance is always recommended because without it, these many wonderful resources have the potential to be used inappropriately and perhaps do more harm than good! But you can keep your child safe by supervising their choice and use of technology, ensuring age classifications are adhered to, teaching them the importance of online safety and choosing safe, child-friendly destinations to travel to.
We live in a time of globalisation and many elements of our lives and the lives of our children both now and in the future will be influenced by this. We’ve gone global, people! So why not embrace it and revel in guiding our kids to make the most of it? By teaching your children about the world, you’re opening their eyes and minds to difference and acceptance; you’re encouraging understanding, empathy, curiosity, sensitivity, tolerance and awareness of people and places beyond your own child’s own environment. You are shaping your kids into citizens of the world.
How to raise global children. Pic credit: Vicki Dekker
Tips and tricks for raising a global child
- Watch age-appropriate movies and TV programs with your child that explore the world. Use them as a springboard to further discussion about the different countries, cultures, languages, foods, art and landmarks represented. A recent example of this is the animated children’s movie Shopkins: World Vacation, available on DVD from November 1. The movie takes kids on an adventure to Tokyo, London and even New York. Exploring iconic world cities, new languages and cultures.
- Go out of your way to spend time with people who are different; regularly sample foods, art and entertainment from other parts of the world. For example, have a ‘world dinner’ once a week, read a bedtime book about or from a different country and seek out opportunities for your family to socialise with people from different countries, cultures, religions and backgrounds.
- Encourage your child to learn a second language. There are myriad benefits to having a bilingual child. From cross-cultural friendships to broader career opportunities, connecting kids to their heritage to developing a deeper understanding of the world. If your child can speak Mandarin, they will be able to communicate with billion people worldwide, speak Hindi and your child will be able to communicate with 650 million people while Spanish speakers can chat with 420 million people around the world!
- Book a family holiday in another country and immerse yourselves in a different geographies, cultures and languages. An overseas family trip can be an enlightening experience for kids. Whether it’s a tropical holiday to Bali, Fiji or Thailand, a road trip across the USA or Canada or an epic European adventure, your kids will savour first-hand the different languages, customs, art, music, foods and sights of different place to the one their used to, which can broaden their minds and awareness. If you can’t afford to take the family overseas, you can still share in some wonderful cultural experiences closer to home like your city’s China Town, or Italian quarter.
- Celebrate international holidays as a family. Learn more about the world through their national celebrations – put a calendar on the fridge of significant world holidays and together research why they’re important and how they’re celebrated. Do something as a family to celebrate as well – enjoy a special meal, watch a relevant film, read about it online. Some fascinating celebrations include India’s ‘Diwali’, The USA’s ‘Thanksgiving’, France’s ‘Bastille Day’, Ireland’s ‘St Patrick’s Day’, The Jewish ‘Chanukah’, Chinese New Year, Greek Orthodox Easter, South Africa’s ‘Madiba Day’ and Latin America’s ‘Primero de Mayo’ to name just a few.
- Buy your children a large world map or globe for your home. When you discuss relevant world events, have a handy world map nearby and get your child to locate the country you’re talking about on the map. Looking at the world as a whole provides kids with geographical perspective that can be used as a tool to start conversations about geography, climate, how time works and environmental issues.
- Invite an exchange student or foreign au pair into your home. If space in your home allows, welcoming a foreign visitor into your home is a wonderful way to bring the world to your child. Think of it as a cultural exchange – your visitor and your family are warmly rewarded in sharing knowledge and language. Au pairs are also an excellent option for young families – in exchange for a room and board, they help out with some childcare and home duties while experiencing life in another country. Your children can benefit enormously from spending time with a young person – learning about their language, culture and life ‘back home’.