Your child’s now old enough to grasp global issues—and to change the planet for the better, too.
Pair your child with a pal from another place.
When your teen tries to learn a language, connect her with a student in another country who speaks the language fluently. In the process of helping each other learn, they will hear about each other’s daily life. Even if it’s only an online call or chat, it is an immersive experience.
It’s an easy yet effective way to get your child involved with the surrounding community, explains Zelda Warner, president of the Volunteer Referral Center. And it’s a two-way street: As your child helps someone, that person simultaneously impacts his life by opening his eyes and allowing him to see the world through a new lens. He will learn to appreciate those differences, and also see how lucky he is to live the life he leads.
If you can, take a family vacation to another country or give your child the opportunity to participate in a student-exchange program. And do so as soon as you are able; the sooner you travel, the earlier your child’s brain begins to expand, Sachs says. “They are able to see the world for what it is, and they are not constrained by the little bubble. A lot of us exist in a bubble,” he explains. “Having that kind of opportunity to connect with real people I think can drastically change your view on the countries they are from and the rest of the world.”
Likewise, even short cruises or camps expose children to others from around the country, or possibly the world, who will share experiences and stories. Dan Appleman, author of Developing Teen Leadership, suggests enrolling your child in a summer camp outside of her comfort zone. Send an athlete to theater camp or a musician to art camp. Send your teen to an overnight camp farther from home. These small changes will allow your child to meet peers with different backgrounds and experiences.
Take a cultural field trip to NYC.
Not up for international travel right now? You don’t have to venture far from home to help your child become more world-aware. Luckily, here in the New York area, we have the luxury of being surrounded by many different cultures and people from diverse backgrounds. A train ride will take you to Chinatown with Little Italy one block away. Talk to your child about these cultures and eat at authentic restaurants. You can also take him to one of the many cultural museums around New York. No matter what you do, this engaging experience will ignite his brain and get him thinking outside of his home.
Model world-aware behaviors.
Ultimately, remember your children are both mirrors and sponges, Pavkovic says—they reflect your behavior and absorb lessons from your actions. Whether you want your kids to use technology less, spend more time outdoors, or speak more kindly, you must do the same.
Appleman seconds this sentiment, recalling parents he knows who bring their children to protests. “Have them be world-aware and have them involved in your life. Yes, there are other things one can do in providing guidance, but there is nothing like setting an example,” he says.
This being said, “we need to take into account that the older your child is, the less they are under your influence. If they are seven, yes, obviously you are their greatest role model and you are the best,” Stoyadinovich says. “But as they grow older, their peers become that for them…Your direct influence, I think, at that point gets a little bit smaller and you need to lean more toward consulting with them and providing them with opportunities rather than instructing them and pushing them to do something.”
Look at what the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have done in Parkland, FL to raise awareness of gun violence. When one teen is world-aware and a leader, others will follow. In that case, millions from all over the world already have. At this rate, world-aware teens will be the ones to create a world-aware society.