By John Seidlitz and Hugo Ibarra
My family recently moved right next to the most diverse zip code in the United States, Irving, Texas (75038). The population is evenly divided between International, African-American, Hispanic, and Anglo residents.
My children were born in San Antonio, known for its rich Hispanic heritage. In Irving, we encountered different cultures and customs. At school, at church, even at Wal-Mart, we observed a rich palette of voices, colors, and clothing. The kids were fascinated by this mix of people which led to questions at dinner.
Why does this city have so many different kinds of people? Why do they come here? What’s a refugee?
My wives mother came here from Mexico decades ago. My grandmother came here from Greece during WWII with only two pairs of clothes and a treasured icon passed down through generations. My grandfather also came here from Germany during the war. We grew up hearing those stories. Our identities were shaped by where our families began so long ago.
Here are a few ideas to help children appreciate diverse cultures:
- Tell them where they came from. Share the passed-down stories. Sites such as ancestry.com offer pathways if you do not know your family’s roots.
- Listen to stories of new friends. Read books with your kids about children from other cultures. I wrote Sometimes to help children understand how leaving one country for another is not just a matter of changing zip codes.
- Curiosity is not a bad thing…it’s ok to ask. Teach your children how to ask respectful questions.
Most of all, encourage and enjoy these conversations. Your children will become great ambassadors for their culture and will benefit from learning about others that they encounter along the way.
John Seidlitz, is the author of Sometimes (Canter Press, January 2016), a book that follows the journey of Andrés and his sister, Clara, as they immigrate from Mexico to the United States. They see many strange sights for the first time — the border filled with cars, a strange U.S. town — and wonder why they had to leave their mother behind. As Andrés starts at a new school, he receives encouragement from a beloved teacher, buoying his hopes until he and his sister are finally reunited with their mother. www.canterpress.com