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How to Help Kids Make Cross-Cultural Friendships

A few weeks ago my son, like many of yours, started preschool (outside the home) for the very first time. Last week he told me that he has a classmate who is learning English and that he "didn't know a lot of words for different things." As we talked, J said that the boy was from Japan, but he seemed to have a hard telling me his name. Now, J can find Japan on a map and understands the concept of speaking another language (in fact, we are all learning a new language together at home) but I could tell that he wasn't quite sure how to relate to or befriend his new classmate.

Is your child in a similar situation? Read on for 5 ways to help YOUR child befriend their new classmates from other cultures!

1) Be excited about their new friend!

Your child is always looking to you for clues on how to think or feel about things! Seeing you be at ease and enthusiastic about their new classmate will set the tone for how they approach him or her.

2) Discuss where the new friend is from and find it on the map. Just this small step of seeing their two home countries on a map can help to bring something familiar to mind when approaching a new culture. It removes an element of the unknown.

3) Listen to a little of the language. Learn a couple of phrases.

This step will help your child relate to what it might be like to be immersed in a new language and unable to understand others or to communicate easily. Put words to what that experience must be like. e.x., "That must be frustrating sometimes." or, "I think I would get confused if I couldn't understand what people were saying." Learn how to say hello in the classmate's home language! Google Translate is a great resource for this.

4) Learn a little about their country.

Head to your local library, take a tour on Google Earth, you could even have a global dinner! Find a fun and interesting way to explore the classmate's culture and talk about the differences and similarities! Make sure to check the Little Explorers Big World Resource Library for a free downloadable unit about that nation too!

5) Kids are kids.

Children are children the world over. No matter what the differences may be, kids want to be safe and accepted, have fun with their friends, and explore the world around them. Your child's classmate is a kid just like them! Keep in mind that most kids already know this. Stereotypes, biases and the like are learned.

Does your Little Explorer have a friend from another culture OR has your child moved to a new culture and made friends there? I would love to hear your tips and experiences! Please share them with us in the comments!

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