Being parents, teachers, and guardians, we have the inherent responsibility to raise holistic children. Just when think that we have come up with the effective formula of IQ + EQ (intelligence and emotional quotient), society is now asking us to step up our game once again to include one more very crucial factor that will help our children live, survive, lead, and make the world a better place – cultural intelligence.
What is cultural intelligence
Cultural intelligence or cultural quotient (CQ), according to Cambridge Dictionary is “knowledge or understanding of how a person from a particular country, race, religion, etc. lives and behaves, and how this affects the way they do business.” However, author Dr. David Livermore defines cultural intelligence beyond knowledge and understanding of other cultures. He describes it as “the capacity to function effectively in a variety of cultural contexts — including national, ethic, organization and generational.”
In his book, The Cultural Intelligence Difference, Dr. Livermore emphasizes the four aspects that define and characterize CQ. It is having the (1) knowledge and (2) understanding of different cultures; (3) the motivation to learn and respond positively to different cultures; and the (4) ability to adjust to cultural norms.
Why cultural intelligence is important for children
Adults are not the only ones who need to develop cultural intelligence. Children also get immersed in culturally-diverse environments, such as schools, neighborhoods, and when going other places. The challenges they encounter are as real as ours. It is very important that they develop cultural intelligence because they need it now and they are going to need it to get a head start for the future.
Cultural intelligence is important for children for the following reasons:
CQ can help kids get along with different kids more easily. Most schools and neighborhoods nowadays are culturally-diverse. Culturally intelligent children would have an easier time socializing with other kids from different countries or other cultures. They would better know how to behave with other kids around without causing isolation or loneliness. They would not have a hard time understanding why some children have different skin color, different beliefs, and different way of doing things.
Migration is very common nowadays. Because of parents’ job or other reasons, children may need to move to another country. Cultural intelligence can help kids make adaption to the new environment easier. It helps lessen culture shock as kids somehow have an idea what to expect in the new environment like food, places to go, people’s religion, beliefs, and tradition.
As children grow older, their adaptable and flexible nature would further develop, making them more competitive and confident individuals.
- Understanding and empathy
The moment kids know and acknowledge cultural differences, they develop a special kind of understanding with other people, especially other kids. It helps them avoid stereotyping or having unconscious bias towards others. With understanding comes empathy. With empathy, it would be easier for them to interact with other kids who may behave differently than the majority or kids who feel lonely and isolated from being different or new to the place. In the future, this can be useful for your kids become a good colleague in a workplace, as well as a good leader.
You may not be expecting this, but yes, developing CQ in children is important because it can add to their fun. It would help reduce their anxiety of living in a new environment and would think of it as more of an adventure and discovery. Children who belong to the majority would have more willingness and confidence to bond with kids from other cultures.
7 tips on how to develop cultural intelligence in children
Children can easily develop cultural intelligence when exposed with the right activities and experiences for their age. Here are some tips on how you can develop cultural intelligence in children:
- Encourage children to make new friends that belong to other cultures.
If little ones cannot quite grasp what you mean, tell them to also make friends with those who come from other countries, those who have different skin color, different shape of eyes, different religious beliefs, and more.
- Introduce new dishes.
Another way acquaint kids with new cultures is to introduce them with new dishes. You can make it more fun by having dinner themes per country and trying on some of their specialty food.
- Share stories with them.
Over a meal, you can share any culturally-significant story you have experienced – maybe about a friend you just met who is from another country or an officemate. Encourage them to share similar experiences, too. Stories can also literally come from story books for your little ones that share lessons of embracing differences, which are not necessarily have to be about culture yet.
- Introduce them to new sports and hobbies.
There should be no forcing, of course, but you can try to encourage them to try new sports, where they can be a part of a team with diverse members. Let them also try to discover new music and try other hobbies new to them.
- Go on day trips.
Day trips can increase you and kids’ exposure to new environment and different cultures. Visit museums, historical sites, old churches, and other tourist spots. Not only will you learn about the history and cultural relevance of the places you visit, you also get the chance to meet tourists with different cultural backgrounds. You can also go on daytrips to places where immigrants are plentiful to have some encounter with other cultural peoples. Joining festivals are also a great way to learn about other cultures.
- Travel to other regions or countries.
If budget permits, then why not? There is no better way to learn and understand another culture than by experiencing them first hand and by immersing with other people in their own homeland.
- Be an example.
Finally, you have to set a good example to your kids and be a role model. Children look up to you and follow what you lead, so practice what you preach.
The key to effectively developing cultural intelligence in children is to make it part of their experience and your family or school routine. They are kids, so make sure your activities are interesting and engaging. Soon, you will be thanking yourself for preparing your children and molding them to be culturally intelligent individuals ready to live, survive, lead, and make the world better in their own little ways.