Raising citizens of the world begins at home

The adage, “the world is getting smaller,” has never rung more true. We live in a global village where people and places are more connected than ever. The ability to collaborate and compete with our international neighbors is so important. And as a parent, preparing your children to be citizens of the world is vital.

You have the unique opportunity to immerse your children in different customs and cultures. The good news is you don’t have to trot the globe to open their minds and imaginations to the world. Here are some tips to help you get started:

Host an international exchange student.
There are few things that can broaden a child’s world view like connecting with a family from another country. Hosting an international high school exchange student goes beyond a brief meeting and forges a lifelong bond, not only with the student but with his or her family. This also is a chance to challenge your kids to learn about, appreciate and share their own culture and traditions. Families interested in hosting a high school exchange student can contact EF Foundation for Foreign Study, the United States’ largest exchange organization, at effoundation.org or (800) 447-4273.

Learn another language as a family.
There are a lot of cultural subtleties hidden in foreign languages, and learning to speak one (or more) is a great way to connect with people from around the world. Consider learning a language as a family through a community education course or a local cultural organization – you can even download language instruction podcasts or mp3s from iTunes and other places on the Web.

Sample cuisine from other countries.
Take your family out for a meal at a restaurant that serves food from different countries, or consider preparing world cuisine recipes together at home. Make this into a game for your kids. Give each child an opportunity to select a country, and prepare a meal representative of the culture. Whether it’s Indian, Mexican, Japanese or German, you can learn a lot about a culture from its food.

Make the most of media.
There are endless opportunities to learn about the world, right at your fingertips – from watching an international news program, to signing up for a foreign pen pal, to downloading international music. Look for movies that are set in other countries and can provide insights into another way of life. Search your TV listings for travel programs or history shows that are valuable learning tools, then watch and discuss them as a family. And of course, the simple, transporting experience of reading books about far-off places will always be a great way to learn more about the world.

Connect with your neighbors.
Create a circle of friends who can provide your children with insights on other countries. Think of your neighbors, colleagues, parents of your children’s friends – anyone who grew up in, or has lived in, another country and can talk about their experiences with you and your family. Use stories, food, languages and holidays to share your different backgrounds.

Learning about the cultures and people of the world begins at home. Whether you talk to your kids about current world events, host an exchange student, or pique their interest through photos of places overseas, by helping them develop a broad worldview, you’re giving them a world of possibilities.

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