Culture and Children

An appreciation of cultural or religious difference is important to a positive social experience. Read on to learn more about culture and children.

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Culture can include attitudes, values, laws, and cherished beliefs or ways of doing things. The foundation for many cultures rests upon accepted myths or beliefs. Culture can influence adults in their everyday lives in the decisions they make and attitudes they have towards other people. How adults view a subject can influence a child's attitudes about the same subject.

Culture in Children: Sticking With What You Know!

Like most of us, children can tend toward the familiar. Demographic, behavioral and psychological similarities can influence a child's choice of friends. In older children, common interests can play as great a role as any single factor. But cultural or racial differences and similarities may also have a part. Children as young as 3 can exhibit an awareness of racial distinction. Some studies of grade-school children seem to suggest that while same-race friendships can be more frequent than cross-race friendships and that gender seems to be more of a determining factor than race, friendships among children who share the same gender and race are the most common of all.

Of course, in small children, the inclination toward what is familiar or similar does not necessarily indicate intolerance or even a preference for one race or gender. It's more likely an unconscious drift toward the comfort of the known. Still it does indicate an awareness that should be taken seriously and cultivated in a positive direction.

The Role of Parents in Cultural Development

Perhaps no one can have as big an influence in a child's life as their parents. They can affect every move a young child makes, especially when that child is faces with new surroundings or circumstances. When a child encounters something they've never seen before - a person with a different skin color than their own, for instance - that child will turn to their parents for clues into how they should respond. How a parent responds under the same circumstances is very important to the forming impressions of a small child. Children take cues from their parents for how to interact with others, solve conflicts and utilize friends to deal with problems.

Next to parents, a child's teachers may have the biggest influence. Parents and teachers need to be aware of what they are teaching children through their own actions and responses to every day life. Far more is being conveyed through the course of a day than math or reading.

The Benefits of Cultural Understanding

A child who feels free and safe in the presence of cultural or religious difference will be able to sustain the confidence they need to learn. Their awareness of difference is important to his development. It will stimulate and strengthen their ability to relate and explore. But their responses to difference can be influenced by the responses they observe in those they turn to for answers and support, namely parents and teachers. Difference should be presented as a positive thing in a child's world so that it will become a healthy challenge to develop and socialize in tolerance and acceptance.

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