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Raising children in the Foreign Service – a brief talk about diversity.

29 Jul

FSJOriginally published as a Letter to Editors [The Foreign Service Journal, March 2013].

Diversity at State: Helping our Children.

The value of diversity promotion in the State Department was well emphasized by EEO Counselor Krishna Das (Letters to the Editor, January issue). As a parent, I see the discussion regarding how we bring up our children within the diverse Foreign Service lifestyle as equal parts interesting, challenging, and crucial. It is, of course, necessary to serve as role models for our children right from the start, particularly in teaching the lesson that everyone, despite appearances or stereotypes, deserves respect.

As noted, State Department children are highly exposed to diverse cultures, and we as parents should demonstrate why this is such an advantage to their own growth as human beings.

Building a culture of diversity starts at home, a literal reality for many State Department families. We speak different languages, come from distinct cultural backgrounds, and practice different religions. And yet in most cases, our children are growing up in a culturally richer environment than we (parents) were brought up. Children in the Foreign Service live the concept of diversity and its social implications – on a daily basis.

Seal of the United States Department of State.

Seal of the United States Department of State. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That said, it is often necessary for us to question what is our role as parents in this process? How can we assist our children regarding the issue of diversity? It would appear as far as diversity is concerned, we need to be extra involved in their lives: listening to their stories, learning about their ventures and challenges adjusting to new, countries, discussing their questions and social frustrations, establishing a healthy communication channel, building positive identities and respect for differences. Further, we should seek ways to insert these concepts into the routines of our children’s everyday lives and help convince them through our actions that a society without discrimination is possible. It is critical for us parents and caretakers to develop ‘cultural sensitivity’ regarding our surroundings; otherwise, without specific cultural information, we may inadvertently promote practices and approaches that could counter other parents’ efforts.

One great piece of advice I once received was to “encourage your child’s friendships with others across race, ethnicity, class, religious practices, background and ability.”

The more personal experiences children have with other groups, the easier it will be to dismiss stereotypes and misperceptions.

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Want to add to the discussion? Please feel free to share your comments/opinions/suggestions here!

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7 responses to “Raising children in the Foreign Service – a brief talk about diversity.

  1. theopenhome

    July 29, 2013 at 11:07 am

    ‘Building a culture of diversity starts at home’ – love this! I believe as parents it is our responsibility to raise children to be respectful of the diversity between people and cultures. This is the environment I am trying to cultivate for our little one whilst we live at home and before we head overseas in the coming years. We continue to surround our daughter with friends from different countries and races but I would also love to hear any other specific ideas you have for resources or activities that can help children to explore world cultures and diversity in preparation for life overseas. Loving your blog, by the way! Jessica

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    • 3rdCultureChildren

      July 29, 2013 at 11:10 am

      Thank you so very much, Jessica! your kind words of support are what I’m always looking for, as a parent! You know how hard it is, trying to raise wordly citizens, and yet, compassionate and loving human beings – not an easy task, for sure – but totally worth it! Thanks for stopping by and for liking the blog – maybe a guest post in the near future, where you’d share your own opinions/ideas/thoughts? I’d appreciate it – think about it… Take care, Raquel

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      • theopenhome

        July 29, 2013 at 1:07 pm

        I’d be honored, Raquel! My little girl is still only a baby but I believe they are never too young to start learning about diversity, the younger the better I think! Raising worldly citizens is something very close to my heart and a priority for me as we prepare for life overseas. It is indeed a challenge, but I’m sure it will also be very rewarding. If I can aid and encourage others as they too try to raise culturally aware and respectful children then I would be delighted! Jessica

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        • 3rdCultureChildren

          July 29, 2013 at 2:05 pm

          WOW… See? you’ve already took a stab at it – loved the way you described it over here… I appreciate hearing/learning about other parents perspectives on raising children within challenging environments [socially, culturally, etc]. I’d love to know your thoughts on this… and it’s totally up to you… random thoughts, an opinion piece, ideas, suggestions you’re received from others [accepted or not..]. Feel free to send me an email at rsnlima@yahoo.com. thank you! 😮

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