In the past two years, and especially in the past few months and weeks, I’ve been impressed and amazed by how adaptable and flexible my son is, and how easily he connects with people of various ethnicities and ages, from toddlers to people in their 50s and 60s, regardless of whether or not they speak each others’ languages. Whether it’s meeting new kids at school, meeting new adults at parties and gatherings, or meeting new people (kids and adults alike) in a new country, he is able to find common ground with everyone he meets, hold conversations with them, play with them, and connect with them at their levels.
Observing my son and other kids who are just as adaptable, I realized that raising children who are truly global — they are culturally, geographically and globally aware; knowledgeable about the world; able to connect with people of different backgrounds — takes conscious effort in many respects; it’s not just a matter of living in another country or vacationing outside their home countries. I noticed that these young global citizens — whether they are TCKs, expats, or immigrants — have several characteristics in common:
1. They are voracious readers of both fiction and non-fiction, across many genres and many different topics. Because of their curiosity and love of learning, they are knowledgeable about many different topics and are able to apply this knowledge when they meet new people to connect with them. Reading also helps them to understand and learn about the world and its people.
2. They have many different interests, from the arts to science to sports. Just like reading, having a variety of interests helps them to find common ground with others. Having many interests also increases their chance of meeting and getting to know different kinds of people across different cultures, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses.
3. They regularly interact with people of various ages. Rather than participating only in activities geared towards kids, these kids attend events and gatherings where there may not be other children their age, so they learn to interact with people available to them, regardless of age. They become comfortable being in different settings and in the company of people of different ages and backgrounds.
4. They have had a variety of real-life, hands-on experiences. Instead of learning about art or nature or the world online, why not enroll them in a class, take a trip to a museum, or go on a hike? There’s nothing more stimulating and enriching for kids than letting them engage their senses and experience the world for themselves.
5. They have been exposed to the world through travel. However, in my personal experience, a caveat needs to be placed on this. To me, vacationing at a resort or sightseeing in touristy areas isn’t enough. Sure, these trips are fun and are sometimes much needed for restoration of the spirit, but to me, they don’t truly expose or teach children how others in the world live or the issues people around the world are dealing with. A recent article in the Washington Post discusses why exposing children to less-than-ideal, developing countries can be such an invaluable experience.
Our world is becoming more inter-connected each day, and it’s important to raise our children with global awareness. What are some strategies you’re using to ensure that your children are on their way to becoming global citizens?