Ten Reasons Why Fostering a Global Mind Must Become the New Parenting Paradigm
In his famous poem “On Children,” Khalil Gibran writes, “… (your children’s) souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams”. The world, which is changing at a never seen before pace, will look very different for our kids when they are grown up. For me, that is a disconcerting fact. The questions that I continuously ask myself are: What will the future be like for my children? How am I supposed to set them up for success in the interconnected world of the 21st century?
What I do know for sure is that kids are growing up in communities that are becoming more and more diverse. They will be working with and competing against people from all over the world. And, most importantly, they will need to engage in solving global challenges such as climate change, poverty, and hunger so that their generation has a future.
The United Nations and Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development have made it a priority to foster global citizenship in education. I believe that every parent should follow in their footsteps. Per definition, a global citizen knows about and embraces different cultures and beliefs and is aware of the challenges people of different backgrounds and our shared planet are facing. These what I like to call “global minds” understand that everything they do has an impact on the world and that everyone, no matter their age, can make a difference!
Here are ten reasons why fostering a global mind must become the new parenting paradigm:
“The practice of tolerance must mean more than peaceful co-existence, crucial as that is. It must be a robust understanding of fostered through dialogue and positive engagement with others.” — Former UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon.
1) Globally minded kids show real empathy and embrace differences (instead of just tolerating them). To tolerate something means to endure and not fight against it. People with a global mind, though, take differences for granted and know how much they can enrich their lives. They can understand and share other peoples’ feelings because they’ve learned about their backgrounds and accepted them with open arms.
2) “Fear of the unknown” leads to xenophobia, but understanding people of different backgrounds combats the negativity.
People aren’t born with biases. They learn them when they grow up. If we teach them to approach every human with a sense of curiosity and an open mind in their early years, then racism and prejudice will lose their breeding grounds.
3) A thriving career in the 21st century requires global competence.
Young people need to cooperate and negotiate with peers from all over the world. This way, they will be involved in global projects, solve challenges, and compete against talents with totally different upbringings from across the globe. Only when they understand how their counterparts think and operate will they become productive participants in the worldwide economy.
4) Give your child the confidence that they could find their way in different parts of the world.
Getting familiar with how daily life in other countries looks like, as well as what traditions, foods, values, challenges there are, will make your children less afraid or even excited to consider living in a different part of the world should they need to or want to. Go away during school breaks, show them other parts of the world, give them a taste of different cultures.
5) Interacting with people from different cultures and standing up for social justice teaches kids to step out of their comfort zone.
Unknown foods, languages kids’ don’t understand, and habits different than their own might make your children feel uncomfortable. Overcoming their first instinct to back off, however, will show them that stepping out of their comfort zone offers new and often great experiences.
6) Immersing in different cultures or activism are unique and meaningful family activities that create long-lasting memories.
A holiday festivity, exploring ethnic neighborhoods, learning traditional dance, volunteering, participating in a march, or trying out new foods strengthens family bonds and fosters conversations. Imagine how fun it would be if everyone practiced Tahitian dances or having family dinner with foods from a different country every Sunday night.
7) Global kids make friends more easily.
Global citizens make an effort to understand one another, and they are not afraid to embrace each other’s differences. With an attitude of openness to people of different backgrounds, kids can not only make friends more quickly but also increase their number of peers.
8) Being a global citizen helps young people to find a sense of purpose.
Former Yale professor William Dresiewicz writes in his book Excellent Sheep that college graduates these days lack a sense of purpose. They might be very good at what they are doing but don’t know why they are doing it. Teaching children about the world, all its challenges, and the opportunities to make a difference helps kids find purpose when they feel like part of a global community with shared rights and responsibilities.
9) Understanding how the world works supports critical thinking and digital literacy.
According to Common Sense Media, digital literacy means the ability to “use technology competently, interpret and understand digital content and assess its credibility and create, research, and communicate with appropriate tools.” 93% of all 12 to 17-year-olds in the United States are online, and the tools and contents they use influence their opinions and their mental health. If we can equip our children with in-depth knowledge about the world and the tools to question what they see online, we will make them better prepared to fight negative influences from social media and fake news.
10) Global Citizens will save the planet.
Goal #4 of the Sustainable Development Goals that were published by the United Nations in 2015 says that “by 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and culture’s contribution to sustainable development.” When children learn from an early age on that they are all part of one human community, and at the same time they feel empowered to help make a difference, their generation has the chance to save our planet.
It all starts at home! While schools play a significant role in educating our children about global citizenship, the foundation, fostering a global mind, is laid in the family. If your paradigm for parenting is global awareness, the competences to become global citizens will quickly follow.
Constanze Niedermaier is the founder and CEO of Whyzz, a company that develops online and offline tools for young global citizens. As a mom and global citizen herself, she feels positive that we need to raise globally-minded kids by educating them from an early age about the world, how everything in it is interrelated, and by instilling in them the belief that they can and should make a difference. For more information, visit www.whyzz.com