When I first had the notion to raise my kids as global citizens, it sounded like something to strive for, but to never truly attain. It sounded big and while I love to dream big, I’m not always one who lives big. Sometimes I overwhelm myself with all the possibilities and in turn make things complicated. Does that ever happen to you? I’m personally learning that very few tasks have to be daunting, and nurturing global kiddos is no exception. But that’s not how it started.
I was single when I started my family. I chose to build my family through international adoption. My son was born in Guatemala and my daughter in Ethiopia. Both adoption processes took me on journeys that opened my eyes to many new experiences. I had the privilege of living in Guatemala for a year as my son’s foster mom during his adoption process. I also traveled to Ethiopia twice for extended stays during my daughter’s process. I learned so many new things and I just knew that I wanted to share all of these experiences with my children. And not just these experiences, but I wanted to expose them to many different cultural opportunities. From the first day of being a mom, I knew that I wanted my children to feel comfortable wherever they were in the world. Enter overwhelm.
How does one teach little people about all of the different cultures in the world? (Spoiler: You don’t.) There is just so much. I needed to reexamine what I wanted to really teach my kids and while learning about different cultures is important and fun, by itself it was missing the mark. As global citizens, I was really hoping they’d learn to embody the characteristics that allowed them to see themselves and others as humans who are worth loving, respecting, and standing alongside. When I defined nurturing global kids like that, the overwhelm began to melt away.
If I could go back ten years, I’d share this wisdom with my younger self – act as if. When you believe you already are, you more effortlessly make choices that take you there. The truth is, if you want to be a citizen of the world all you have to do is see yourself as one. If you want to raise global kids, then act as if you’re fulfilling that quest with every breath you take. When you act as if, well then, you just already are.
So now that we’re all global citizens, below are a 4 ways you can incorporate the world into your daily activities and conversations with your children.
If your child could travel anywhere in the world, where would she choose? As you’re having fun daydreaming out loud and making magical plans to befriend elephants, introduce the reality of needing a passport. Passports are fun and kids love collecting stamps, but what does a passport actually mean? This is a great opportunity to ask your child why they think we need passports. Why can’t we just come and go anywhere in the world? What are the benefits of a passport? What are the limitations? There doesn’t have to be any real answers that come from this exercise. It can just be an opportunity to have your child do some critical thinking.
When you’re walking through the store, take pause to read labels with your children. A few things to look at might be clothing, furniture, food and beverages. This can open many conversations. What do certain countries specialize in? What is import and export? How does that help the world work together? If a country doesn’t specialize in a certain item, then why do we import that item? How do lower costs impact workers? What is fair trade? Of course, this can lead to some very serious conversations, which my 11 year old is ready for, or it can be fun and light-hearted for the youngest shoppers. Oh, this can also be done at secondhand shops, too!
Use Life Around You as a Framework for Learning
The world is around us and we have opportunities to look instead of see. Look for similarities and look for differences…in people, dress, cuisine, etc. One example that personally presented itself to my children and me was in Home Depot. There was a lady dressed in a burqa – a full body cloak that covered the woman from head to toe. My daughter with innocence and excitement squealed, “Look, mom! A ninja!” This was a great teaching moment. I was able to extend the conversation with my children over lunch at a local Middle Eastern restaurant. There truly are opportunities all around us that can open a conversation about the world and global citizenship.
Seek Crafts that Embody Love
Kids and crafts go hand-in-hand. When you’re looking for the next fun project to do with your kids, intentionally seek projects that focus on love. While you’re crafting, have a conversation about all the different ways we can give and receive love. How will that change the world for good? What can kindness teach inconsideration? Like many young children, my kids used to think love was something you said to your family. It wasn’t until many conversations and examples later that they started to learn love is something that you show. And, love can and should be shown to everyone. It’s an action that can bring people together, form friendships, and make people feel like they belong. If you’re looking for a project, check out www.lovenotesandtags.com. It’s something that I put together for kids and adults alike to share love.
One mistake that I used to make when having these conversations, is that I thought it was my responsibility to have all of the answers. But, it’s not. It is perfectly ok to just talk with your children and listen to their thoughts. Kids see us the experts of everything. They’ve come to expect that if they ask a question then we will have the answer. It’s ok to be honest and say something like, “I really don’t know myself. Let’s look into that together. Should we go to the library?” Or something like, “Well, I have my opinion, but I wouldn’t want to ruin the joy of you forming your own opinion.”
While I’m so passionate about nurturing global kids, I’m even more passionate about being a global citizen myself. I like to think of myself as a global mom. And, as a global mom, I’m honored to stand beside you as we raise the next generation of global leaders and world changers!