By Alex Temblador
You hear it sometimes: “I want my kids to be raised in diverse environments.” It’s an easy thing to say, but another thing to do. For one, it’s sometimes difficult for parents to find diverse environments, especially those that live in small towns or cities with a mostly homogeneous population. For other parents, there’s other things they want for their kids that can sometimes take precedent over “diverse environments.”
But that’s not to say that you can’t try to raise your children in or introduce your children to diverse environments. And you should – there’s been studies that have shown that children in diverse environments perform better in school and other areas of life than children who don’t have any interaction with kids from different families and backgrounds.
So here’s five easy ways in which you can introduce your children to diverse environments:
- Enroll your children in diverse schools
Whether it be racially or financially diverse, it’s very beneficial for children to attend schools with diversity. Beyond the fact that children learn empathy, cross-cultural collaboration, and critical thinking in racially diverse classrooms, it also tends to foster reduced racial prejudice. Furthermore, schools will often see that test scores of children in racially diverse schools will rise.
It’s not always easy for families to enroll their children in racially diverse schools – sometimes families can’t economically afford to move into a racially diverse school district or there aren’t any diverse schools around (if they live in a small community). So one of the next best ways to introduce your children to diverse environments is to travel or take them on vacations in which they’ll be introduced to people of different backgrounds.
If you’re going to be traveling internationally with children, try taking them to countries and areas where the people look different than them, speak other languages, or have vastly different lifestyles and culture. Involve the children in the culture of the country you are visiting whether it be through visiting a village, seeing a cultural dance event, making pottery – whatever. You children will benefit by interacting with the locals – young and old – and will hopefully have the chance to see that others live differently than they do.
For those families remaining in the U.S., it’s not very hard to visit a major city with diverse types of environments. Rather than book a hotel, stay at an Airbnb in a local neighborhood that differs from yours and interact with the community.
- Attend diverse local events
For those families who live in larger cities, often communities will host events that focus on diversity. Check out your local parks’ or city’s website for free community events that tend to focus on different cultural groups. I’ve seen Native American music performances, African dance classes for children, Mexican cooking classes for kids, and many more. It might take a bit of research to find these types of classes – but they’re out there.
On the other hand, look for modern family type of events too! The Next Family hosted a beach party that encouraged LGBT families to attend, but we also had single parents, heterosexual parent families, interracial families, and adoptive families in attendance! Just because your family doesn’t “fit” in with whom the event is advertising, doesn’t mean your family can’t attend. Contact the event host and explain that you want to introduce your kids to other families; I’m almost positive they will be too happy to introduce their family to yours!
At the least, find free community events. Since the event is free, it often attracts families of all types and from all different backgrounds and even an hour of two of your children interacting with different types of kids from different types of families will be beneficial.
- Visit other neighborhoods
If you live in a city, often times there are neighborhoods in your city that you don’t often visit – usually due to preconceived notions whether it be from rumors, newspaper articles, or stereotypes. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and take your children to those neighborhoods because oftentimes, they’re different from what you’re used to. Not only will it help your children to be in a diverse environment, it can only benefit you too.
Take the children to a local park in a different neighborhood or a fast food restaurant with a playground and let them interact with children of other types of families.
- Public camps, local clubs, or athletic teams
One of the easiest ways to introduce your children to diverse environments is to involve them in diverse groups or clubs. Take the Boys & Girls Club – it often has a very diverse group of children from different backgrounds attending their camps or playing in their sports leagues. Get your children involved in their programs or by attending in the summer! They accept children from 6 years of age to 18 years old and involve them in community projects!
Your community may have summer camps or groups that promote volunteering and summer camps with kids from different families or with varying abilities. Get your kids involved in those! At the least, if your child likes to play sports, sign them up to play with a team with a diverse group of children.
Though it may seem like a daunting task to introduce your children to diverse environments – it’s much easier than you might imagine. Just make the effort to do at least one or two of these five things and be happy in knowing that your children are learning so much by interacting with those that are different than they are.