Raising Cultural Kids in Jersey City

 

When it comes to raising a child, any parent wants them to be the best person they can possibly be and to make a difference in the world, but where do you start? Is it in creativity? Is it in the arts? Is it making them studious and study long hours? This is the great debate. 

A lot of parents who were raised to ‘find something they are good at and stick to it’ have changed their mindsets and have instead switched their focus to another type of lesson. This lesson is about inclusion and learning from others, which is done by helping children understand diversity in their neighborhood or city. These parents believe that exposing their children to diversity will help make them more compassionate and understanding towards others and in turn, help them grow into outstanding members of their community.  Jersey City is currently rated the most ethnically diverse city in the United States. So if there was ever a time to be raising kids in JC, it’s now!

 

How Does Diversity Help my Child?

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In the digital age, it’s impossible not to see people of different colors, religions, and sexual orientations, on social media, tv, or even walking down the street. People are becoming more open about their culture, so parents have taken it upon themselves to teach their children to appreciate the diversity they are surrounded by and embrace the differences in individuals.

Dianna Santana, the author of The Most Valuable Treasure and an expert in multiculturalism, diversity, and inclusion, has seven benefits towards raising a multicultural child. Those benefits include improving social skills, appreciating differences, an eagerness to learn about new countries, increased confidence, and wanting to try new things, like eating new foods. Teaching your children about diversity can be beneficial in their growth and improving their skills in 21st-century essentials like empathy, sympathy, and apathy. 

 

Why Does Teaching about Diversity Matter?

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Schools become more and more diverse each year with students from all over the world sitting in the same classroom as your own child. Naturally curious, your child will ask questions and they’ll look to you for answers. Teaching a child about diversity has a long-lasting effect and has been known to produce a mind of interest, intrigue, acceptance, and understanding. If your child’s classmate is of a culture you are not familiar with, use this as an opportunity to teach your children how to ask engaging questions about other cultures. In my experience, the absolute best way to get to know about someone’s culture is to simply chat with them and let the conversation naturally answer your questions for you. Taking the time to get to know someone is much more polite than saying “What are you?”.  It is also imperative that you educate your children on what is not appropriate when it comes to someone who doesn’t look or act like them. Often times kids poke fun at others for their differences in what they eat, how they dress, or the way they speak. This is easily remedied by education, awareness, and exposure to other cultures. Always remember that children learn by the example you set for them. Teaching your children about diversity doesn’t mean you have to know how to deal with every situation perfectly but that you are willing to learn alongside your child. 

 

What Can I Do to Help Teach Diversity to my Child?

You don’t have to sit behind a computer or look through thousands of books to teach your child about diversity. Most communities and metropolitan areas like Jersey City have museums, parades, festivals, or get-togethers, where different cultures are celebrated and shared with others in their communities. In my case, we had Filipino Culture night at my college to share and showcase different foods, trends, and traditions that are popular in my parent country. This was a fantastic way to teach many growing minds about different cultures.

Justin performing at his Filipino culture night

To teach your child about the world take them out into the world and show them the different cultures that live meer blocks from their own home here in Jersey City.

 

Why Should I Care?

For me, this is personal because I’ve seen both extremes, tolerance, and intolerance, and how the lack of culture in some areas had negative impacts on the children of that community. 

I am Filipino American, born and raised in Houston, Texas, once known as the most diverse city in the country. That honor now belongs to my new home, Jersey City. It was normal to go to school and not be the only person with darker skin or speaking more than one language. I was not teased or judged by other students because of what I looked like or where my family originated from or what was packed for my school lunch. Diversity was all around me growing up, having friends from all different nationalities, and skin shades. But when I was 22 years old I moved to a town in the Midwest where diversity was slim-to-none. I saw first hand how different people, especially children, acted without having many other cultural influences around. 

With smaller children, I saw both hesitancy and fear towards me because I looked different. From my darker skin to my pitch-black hair, a lot of kids had never seen anyone like me around. This reaction happened a few times at my jobs and interactions with coworkers’ children while living in a small Midwest town. Teens were no better off as I encountered some who were unwilling to set their differences aside and exuded a sense of superiority over me. It became very clear to me that growing up in a town that didn’t have much diversity did not prepare these children and young adults for a world that’s full of it. 

 

What Got Me Through It?

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In that same town I called home for 5 years, I did find a light at the end of the tunnel with other people of color and a few culturally diverse Caucasian friends who were open and experienced with other cultures. The children I met who were taught about diversity and accepting other people’s cultures were a delightful breath of fresh air in the smog of dirty looks and confusion I was normally experiencing. These new friends asked genuine questions about my culture and constantly asked me to make food for them or to recommend things for them to eat to expand their pallets. It may seem like a small gesture, but it really made me feel like a member of the community. I finally felt welcomed and wanted to share my view of the world with these people and continue on their path of knowledge and acceptance.

Showing your child diversity can only benefit them in life to be caring and understanding people. Though you don’t have to agree with everything you see, have to like everything you try, or believe everything they believe, showing that you have the open-mindedness to listen to them will do more for your child in their development and growth. We hope you take the time to explore the diversity that is within Jersey City. To explore all the culture around you, check out our list of cultural organizations here in Jersey City!

 

“Compassion can be put into practice if one recognizes the fact that every human being is a member of humanity and the human family regardless of differences in religion, culture, color and creed. Deep down there is no difference.” – Dalai Lama

Justin DeLaCruz
Author: Justin DeLaCruz