It’s a Big World After All (And Our Kids Need to See It)
As parents, we often want to shield our children from being exposed to certain influences. However, there are times when we should actually choose to intentionally expose them. And one of the ways this is done is through travel.
Exposing our kids to cultures and lifestyles beyond their own is so important to their development. Mississippi mom Tammie Phillips reminds us, “If we never see outside our own little area, our views of the world and life are limited. There is so much beauty around us in people, places, their history, their stories. Having those opportunities enriches our own lives.”
The good news is that we don’t have to travel all across the globe to gain exposure. Not all of us have the resources and ability to tour the world, but most of us can travel to other states or even to parts of our own state that are unfamiliar to us. The goal is to help our children look beyond themselves and their own ways of living, and we don’t have to go very far to do that. (Although the further we can explore, the better!)
But why is it important? I’m glad you asked.
When we are children, our worlds seem very small. We have no reason to assume that others live differently than we do. That’s why it is important for us as parents to show our children that people live differently in different parts of our city, state, country, and world. Ashley Krason, mom of three and a professor at Mississippi College says, “As a cross-cultural understanding teacher to university students, I believe that earlier exposure to the world and others’ worldviews would be so beneficial to children!”
By introducing our children to other cultures, whether local or global, we are helping them to understand, respect, and celebrate the differences in people. This will help them in their interactions and relationships with others both now and in the future.
Olivia Emert, an American whose family has lived and worked in Zambia for much of Olivia’s 16 years of life, has been grateful to have her first-hand experience, stating, “It has been so eye-opening for me to see a different culture and interact within it. It has helped me to learn about healthy friendships, appreciate what I have, and love others like family!”
Most of us probably won’t ever live in another country like Olivia’s family does, and we might not ever even visit another country. But one of the benefits of living in this age of technology is that we have much easier access to other cultures than people once did. We can see pictures and videos and read about places all over the world with just a few clicks. We can listen to how other people speak, explore their traditions, and learn about their lifestyles. And in many cities, we have access to restaurants or food stores where we can experience food from other cultures. So even if we cannot access other countries in person, we can access them through other means.
Ashlee P., a mom who has done extensive world traveling, explains, “I want to raise global minded children who have a wider view of things. I think it helps them be more creative, flexible, compassionate, and good problem solvers.”
If our kids have been exposed to a variety of cultures, they will more likely be curious and interested in learning more about someone when they encounter someone new and different. If they have not been exposed to other cultures, their response might be just to think that someone different is weird or scary. We want our children to be kind, generous, thoughtful, and welcoming, which means they must know how to look beyond themselves and to understand that there are many different ways of living in this world.
Julie Albritton, mom to six kids, believes it is important for our families to see other parts of the world so that we can learn more about history, language, music, art, geography, and more. “If not,” she says, “we become very self-absorbed and have a hard time developing empathy for people who are different from us.”
Why is empathy important? When we understand how other people think and live and feel, we are led to have more compassion for others and will better understand how to relate to them. We learn to cooperate and work well with others. And we understand that our way of living isn’t the only way or the right way. We become better neighbors, coworkers, and friends. Parents, let’s help our children work toward these things now, so that these skills become instinctual for them!
So as we’re traveling with our families this summer — whether it’s in Mississippi, Mexico, or Mozambique — let’s take these things into consideration. The world is a big place. Our perspectives should not be small.
Carrie Bevell Partridge writes words of encouragement and support for marriage and family. She and her husband Kevin have five children and make their home in Ridgeland, MS. Read more from Carrie at carriebevellpartridge.com.