Part of the beauty of living in a multi cultural society is being exposed to a great number of amazing cultures that are centuries in the making. Especially all the food, music and art that comes out of those traditions, making a community a colourful and vibrant one. But challenges are inevitable, especially when it comes to kids and their monochromatic way of looking at things. As kids are more exposed to other cultures, inevitably they will make note of contradictions and mixed messages that inevitably come – mainly by talking to their friends and many cases learning wrong information or not being able to process positively the differences in cultures.
For example why do some people eat pork and other don’t – who is right? If Christmas is about Jesus, why are people of different faiths allowed to celebrate it? Why do some kids have mothers that wear a hair covering and not my mom, or a dad with a turban but not my dad?! Why do some kids don’t believe in God, but you tell me that we should pray to God?
These questions can not be avoided, in some cases even adults have them. Part of the reason why I love living in a cosmopolitan or mixed community is because it better prepares my kids to the real world. These questions are sooner or later going to find their way into their lives and so its better to deal and normalize it early than to wait when they get wrong messaging that can warp their thinking or militarize into extreme views.
The key is to acknowledge there are differences, not to ignore them. Make note of them on TV, or a park or anywhere else to show them they are everywhere and everyone is dealing with them. Explain that different people look at different things, including taste of food, or type of music. Traditions are typically a choice for adults, and will be for them once they grow up, read about other cultures in more detail and make their own decisions. I tell my son that I have read about other cultures – and actually talk to him about other cultures and what they believe in a positive way – but that I chose this tradition and faith to follow because it suites me best.
More importantly the main point to make is that these differences are not hindrances and emphasizing the common humanity it so important. The question is if he’s in trouble – would he not want help from others, even if they are of different faiths or cultures? Wouldn’t he be just as appreciative if someone of a different culture helped him out if he’s hungry or in pain?
Making about the commonalities and how we help each other is what speaks to them and what makes them relate to the issue of tolerance. All the while not diminishing his own faith and culture and keeping him proud of where he comes from. After all most traditions survived centuries for a reason and each culture has at something to contribute or add to the world.
Having that discussion is so important at an early stage, and the same positive approach of different but same needs to happen with those of a different race, age, and physical ability. It sets the stage for normalizing differences an avoiding discrimination, as benign as it may be at an early age – which may develop into more extreme thoughts as they grow up. That will make society pay and your kids pay in the long term for not accepting and contributing to society positively.