I most definitely don’t proclaim to be an expert in child rearing, but I have learned a few things over the years raising my 2 children. I think we have done one or two things right because our kids are very much socially conscious.
I can only really atribute it to 2 things. Teaching them to be global citizens and teaching them the act of giving.
First and foremost, kids must be thought to be global citizens. They must be aware of the world beyond theirs. We are all interconnected as humans and geography is the only thing that separates us. It was important to us, that from an early age, our kids travel and be comfortable traveling. We try to travel to a different country every summer. We make it educational as well as fun. The kids are required to research whichever country we are traveling to – they must know the culture, the government, cuisine, currency etc. This allows them to engage and to learn.
I know a couple that travel with their children the same way but they let the children spend a day or two in a school classroom with kids their age immersing in that culture in a different way.
I know people are reluctant to travel with their young children because they don’t think the kids will do well on a long flight or think these trips are wasted on them. I totally disagree. Children will adapt to what you expose them to. So if you start early with the travel, in our case as early as 2 years old, they get used to it pretty quickly. And you would be surprised what they retain from these travels. So now that they are older we have no qualms about them traveling abroad on their own because we have given them the tools from an early age.
Yes, I realize travel can be expensive, but there are many ways to travel on a budget. And traveling does not have to be out of the country. It could be as simple as getting in a car, a train, or a bus to a different state. You would be suprised how the culture can differ from one state to the other.
Another important way to raise social awareness in your kids is by encouraging children to give back from an early age. The art of giving can be done either financially, with goods or with your time. It is not enough to tell your kids to eat all their vegetables because there are kids starving in so and so place. You actually need to show them.
How do we show them? Well, there are several ways. For instance, when you pack up all those old clothes for donation, take the kids with you to Goodwill, or wherever you are donating to let them see where their things are going. Also take them from time to time to a homeless shelter to help feed the homeless. Around thanksgiving is the best time to do this. Let them pick a charity that they can save towards from their allowance and at the end of the year, send the donation to that charity. How nice when they get that letter from the charity thanking them. One of my children spent some time at a Salvation Army one summer, helping them organize the donation items they got from people – it was such a rewarding experience.
When children are socially conscious, they are overall more accepting and tolerant human beings. We want our kids to treat all people no matter their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation with equal respect.
These are 2 things that we have done in our family, but I’m sure there are many other ways.
Please share your ideas below.