With every new technological development, the world gets a little bit smaller. Our children are growing up in a world, which is highly interconnected and interdependent.
The opportunities that this fast-changing ‘globalised’ world offers our little ones are enormous and limitless. But so too are the challenges.
While we may not know the exact nature of these opportunities and challenges, what we do know is that it will take more than just the traditional skill set of reading, writing, arithmetic (and now coding!) to help our children become successful in the future.
We, as parents of the future generation have the added responsibility of raising our children to be global citizens.
To be effective global citizens, we need to teach our children to be flexible, creative and proactive. They need to be able to solve problems, make decisions, think critically, communicate ideas effectively and work well within teams and groups that will essentially comprise people from all over the world.
Much of the lessons in becoming a good global citizen lie in proper guidance, not instruction. We can help our children become the best possible versions of themselves through daily encouragement and practice. Remember, starting them young is key.
Here are some simple tips which we can incorporate in our daily lives to encourage our children to think and act like global citizens of the future world, from today:
- Create a global mind set: Get that world map or globe. Educate your child about the Earth’s geography. Play fun games like finding a country on the map. Slowly, get your child to be interested in world affairs. Discuss events happening around the world; get their minds to form their own opinions and views. To model empathy, listen and do not judge.
- Raise a bilingual / multilingual child: Learning a second language is more than a matter of getting good grades in examinations. It helps the child to learn about another culture. It has also been proven to enhance cognitive abilities like decision-making and problem solving.
The discipline it takes to learn a language will also improve their focus and ability to concentrate on challenging tasks. Studies1 have shown that it makes one smarter!
Travel: When we travel with children, they realise that the world is made up of many different people, speaking different languages, practicing different religions and doing many things in many different ways. This makes the lesson of empathy just come to life, making it easier for them to imagine what it’s like to be in other people’s shoes. Travelling boosts appreciation for other cultures and customs, prevents prejudices, and increases self-awareness and self-esteem. Children learn to respect differences.
They may not remember every single detail of a trip, but the impact of these life experiences will help shape their personality and global outlook. You can also make the most of this time by practicing their problem-solving skills while in transit. Play games that will occupy their thoughts such as pointing out how certain structures or systems (like airport lines!) can be improved, drawing inspiration from other places they’ve visited.
Library: If you can’t afford the luxury of travel, the best way to bring the world to your doorstep is through a library. The library is a treasure trove of books, maps, music, and magazines. In this age of the Internet, the library remains vastly underutilised. But really, there is no better place for fuelling imagination and exchange of ideas.
Having a break from the distractions of technology will also benefit your child in many ways. Just learning to sit and read a book will develop his concentration and imagination!
- Expose children to international food, music, art, museum exhibits and shows: Make cultural exposure a way of life. The smells and tastes of new food, the colour and drama of art, stories, and the rhythm of music can stimulate little minds. These varied sensory experiences build curiosity and imagination, help them to grow and embrace the new and different.
Encourage cross-cultural interactions with other kids: There is no denying it, kids learn best from other kids. Encourage your child to embrace friends from different cultures.
Invite friends from different cultures for sleepovers; likewise don’t be shy to send your own child to a cross-cultural sleepover. As children get comfortable communicating and collaborating with other kids, the new and different cease to be scary and strange. This will help them function fearlessly as global adults.
Empower children: Children are naturally compassionate. We can encourage them to donate used clothes and old toys, and make them realise that small actions of theirs can impact and benefit society, and the world at large.
Teaching our children empathy boosts their interpersonal skills, which will play into how they collaborate and solve problems in the future. Children need to know that they have the power to change the world, because being a global citizen also means being accountable for one’s actions and working for the greater good.
- Support their IQ and EQ: A child will be motivated to learn more about the world only if we as parents have been intentional in fostering their emotional intelligence alongside their intellectual learning. Empathy, patience, the ability to listen and observe, curiosity, and the mentality to question, are as critical to global success as travelling and learning new languages.
To conclude, parents are encouraged to take a proactive approach in enhancing their child’s global awareness. Only then can we teach our children to understand and deal with the challenges of a rapidly changing world.
Our role as parents is to build bridges that connect our children with the rest of the world.