Harmony Day celebrations this week (21 March) are an opportunity to encourage our children to learn about different cultures, make new friends and grow their own communities. So how can we encourage our children to build diverse, inclusive friendships?
If you’re part of a diverse community or friendship circle you’ll know the value of having a network of people with diverse experiences and knowledge (and delicious family recipes!). For our kids, it can be a window into a world they wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to see. It can help them grow their understanding and makes their worlds bigger and richer.
We don’t want to force friendships on our kids (it never works) and want to give them the space to be their own people and forge their own relationships. But we can also lead by example in building diverse communities so they aren’t cut off from the possibilities of connecting with people they may not otherwise meet.
So when it’s challenging enough to make friends in adulthood, how can we model diverse relationships for our kids?
- Get involved in local events and bring your kids along too! Harmony Day has a great calendar of cultural events across the year. It’s also worth checking out your local council’s community calendar, there’s often a diverse range of events you can connect with.
- Get yourself down to one of SBS Radio’s events. There are festivals from all over the globe to take part in.
- Think about diversity and inclusion in the spaces where you spend your time. Your workplace, parenting groups, community groups. Is there room to make them more accessible and open to a more diverse group of people? This isn’t about finding a tokenistic diverse friend as an addition to your group, but instead thinking about the context and barriers that might be preventing people with different backgrounds from joining in.
- Teach your child a ‘good morning’ greeting in a different language each week, teach them how to say ‘I love you’ in a range of different languages, learn their favourite song in another language together (there are a huge range of apps that translate different languages and some great jingle translations lurk online).
- Children’s books are an amazing resource to learn about different cultures too, check out your local library for books like: Whoever you are (Mem Fox); Same Same But Different (Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw); It’s okay to be different (Todd Parr). Similarly, consider watching movies and TV shows set in other cultures like Nina’s World, Super Wings, Mouk, and Dora and Friends.
- Expose your child to foods from different cultures as you learn about their language, country and customs.
- Travel. If you’re in a position to do it, travel is a great way to expose your kids to new people and experiences and to forge new friendships and understanding.
- Sponsor a child through Plan International. Child sponsorship is a way many parents introduce their kids to children living overseas so they can learn about one another through writing letters and sharing their passions and dreams. It’s important to us at Plan International that this relationship isn’t seen as an act of charity. It’s about connecting with a community and helping to remove the obstacles that prevent a child from thriving.
If you have your own tips for building diverse communities, books or shows you’ve seen that particularly stood out, or groups that you’re a part of looking for new members, let us know about your #inclusivecommunities on social media.
We’re bringing together a community that is raising global citizens by sharing knowledge and experiences and empowering young people to reach their full potential. If you’d like to be a part of it, sign up here.