Although most people gravitate toward people who are similar to themselves, it's important to expose young people to a variety of cultures and people. People from different cultural, ethnic, and racial backgrounds can learn many things from one another.
Being culturally competent doesn't mean that you have to like others who are different from you, but rather be able to treat one another with respect, tolerance, and equality. It means making an effort to learn about and understand people of other cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds.
Research shows that young people who have knowledge of and feel comfortable with people of different cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds feel good about themselves, are less lonely, can solve problems well, and do better in school.
Cultural competence builds strong, capable, and interesting young people.
Think about your family, ethnic background, or cultural heritage and what makes you proud and gives you comfort. Then explore other cultures' or countries' people, art, sayings, food, songs and traditions. Help young people learn about the backgrounds of others and create a more understanding world by appreciating differences.
Explain to your child how and why her or his name was chosen. Talk about any connections the name has with your family's roots and culture-old or new.
Get to know people who are from a different country or have a different cultural heritage from you. Ask them about their family traditions, celebrations, and other unique aspects of their backgrounds.
I.F. Eastman, M.A., coordinates Healthy Communities-Healthy Youth of Warren County on behalf of Family Services. This article was adapted from Instant Assets, published by Search Institute.