This past weekend we had the opportunity to attend the 40th annual Ethnic Enrichment Festival in Kansas City, Missouri and it was quite the event. This festival is one of the largest of its kind in the United States and fifty countries were represented this year including Greece, Italy, Israel, Malaysia, Lebanon, Cuba, Russia, and Kenya.
This festival was hosted at Swope Park and each country had a booth showcasing their cultural arts, crafts, and food to tens of thousands of visitors to the event this year. The three-day festival lasted the entire weekend and it was packed full of activities including live on-stage dances, presentations, a parade of flags and an ethnic fashion show.
We attended on Saturday and it was just an absolute delight to be in the midst of so much diversity showcased in a well-planned event. We were there with the kids and I was especially grateful for the ingenious idea of the ethnic festival “passports”. These free passports were small booklets handed out at the admission gates and information booth. Kids were encouraged to fill their passports with stamps from the different booths they visit and essentially travel around the world in one day or three days as the case may be.
Oh and the food! I must say the food was just amazing! With various delicacies on display, it was hard to choose just one booth in which to eat. We ended up sampling sumptuous lamb gyros in Greece, delicious vegetable samosas from India, mouth-watering Kobasa from Croatia, tasty meat-pies from Lebanon and topped it off with decadent German Chocolate from Germany!
Attending this celebration of different cultures and being able to share all this with my children got me thinking about how the concept of the world as a global village is truer these days than ever before.
Diversity is rampant in schools, at work, at play and in our everyday lives. And we are expected to not just acknowledge and tolerate it but also to interact effectively with it by being Culturally Intelligent.
I found that the Ethnic Enrichment Festival is an actual picture of everyday life and how diverse groups of people interact every day towards common goals of progress and the pursuit of happiness.
And so Cultural Intelligence is a life skill that we should imbibe in ourselves and strive to teach our children.
So how do I foster Cultural Intelligence in my kids?
In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that facilitating Cultural Intelligence in my kids is not a mad dash but an endurance marathon; so it is a process. With this in mind, I do my best, as a parent to facilitate a foundation that they can hopefully build upon the rest of their lives.
So in securing a foundation of Cultural Intelligence in my kids, I use a sandwich method of pre-discussion/exposure/post-discussion, while frequently and intentionally exposing them to various culturally diverse situations.
Obviously, the boys will inadvertently find themselves in culturally diverse situations on a daily basis, but when this exposure is intentionally engineered by me, I usually activate the Pre-Discussion. I use this opportunity to talk to the boys about our own culture and invite them to ask questions about it. This initial stage is all about walking the kids through their own preconceptions and biases and exploring how it might affect their world-view. My kids are able to talk about how they feel about certain cultural nuances like mommy’s loud and animated conversations in Yoruba or how confusing it seems that a simple act of kneeling down can mean greeting, prayer or supplication. This stage hopefully builds self-awareness in my kids in terms of their culture and how it influences the way they see the world.
So I make it a point to intentionally expose my kids to culturally diverse situations via books, travel movies/documentaries and events like the Ethnic Enrichment Festival. In my opinion, this exposure is the bedrock for fostering Cultural Intelligence in kids because I feel kids need to experience, touch and interact with diversity as often as it can be arranged to foster that foundation for Cultural Intelligence.
Post-Discussion is essential following any intentional exposure to a culturally diverse situation because it is an opportunity to debrief the kids, helping them explore their reaction to the exposure.
While we were at the festival, I encountered a woman with her son. Her son was standing in front of my sons waiting to get his passport stamped in one of the country booths. Suddenly he stamped his feet and exclaims to his mother, “Mom, there is nothing to do here, it is so boring!” This boy’s outburst made me think about how I love that children mostly speak their minds and how a Pre- and Post-Discussion is always helpful in helping children explore how they feel about certain encounters and interactions.
How do you foster the essential life skill of Cultural Intelligence, in your kids? Let me know in the comment box below. Until then,
Best Regards and talk to you soon!