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How Every Child Can Grow Up Global

By Homa S. Tavangar, author

I'm delighted to share ideas from Growing Up Global  with the Persian community.

Many of you are some of the most globally-minded people found anywhere.

Some of this was by choice, and for others, it was forced by the necessity of leaving your homeland.  It's amazing to think that just one or two generations ago millions of Iranians had never met a person from a different continent or race; and today we are successfully integrated into diverse cultures all over the world.  Now that we have a sense of global citizenship, we want our children to thrive in a globally connected world.

I wrote Growing Up Global to offer a toolbox of resources and ideas to begin that process - and now it is taking off in schools, at work and in conversations at dinner tables.  Particularly for the Persian community, I share stories from my own family's experience as new immigrants to the U.S.

during my childhood and ways we navigated our Iranian identity along with our new American one.  In the end, we make peace with the juxtaposition of values, beliefs and cultures through a lens of global citizenship, and this has been one of the greatest gifts we are passing along to our children.

Below is an article I wrote that was just posted on PBS Parents.  What has been your experience in connecting with the larger world, and in navigating across cultures?  Has your family (or children's schools) tried any of the ideas from Growing Up Global?  I'd love to hear your comments and experiences!  Thank you!!


My family is lucky to live in a neighborhood with dozens of school-aged kids, where a lemonade stand often springs up on a clear day. Most parents passing by will try to stop, if only because we know our own children will be itching for an entrepreneurial moment soon themselves. We tip more generously when the proceeds will benefit charity. Increasingly, the six- or eight year-olds might be earning quarters to cure cancer, rebuild Haiti or buy school supplies for kids across town or in a country whose name they can barely pronounce.

The example of children mobilizing for a cause beyond their circumstances demonstrates their readiness to embrace a global mindset. With encouragement and good examples at home and in their community, qualities like compassion, generosity, and practicing the Golden Rule become standards they wish to strive toward, and which put substance behind what it means to be a global citizen.

The notion of global citizenship becomes clearer when I recall the ethic, "Be a friend to the whole human race." Friendship is a universal value - it's important to everyone, and it can be fun. Envisioning this on a wider scale ("to the whole human race"), discussing it, and practicing it in daily life serve as simple, yet powerful tools for raising a new generation to be well-adjusted and peaceful, and ultimately, successful and happy.

We learn what we see.

As a parent, your own willingness to try a new food, learn about another faith, genuinely befriend diverse colleagues and neighbors, or embarrass yourself trying to express ideas in a different language will leave an impression on your children, and they'll be better for it. We're more plugged in than ever, but not necessarily more connected. So, striving to be a friend to the whole human race - starting at home - can be a huge challenge, but also makes a great gift for our children, and an awesome adventure.

To get started with your own family, try one or more of these ideas - in whatever way works best for your own circumstances and interests:

  • Spice up dinner and a family-friendly movie. Rent Ponyo or My Neighbor Totoro, gorgeous animated films for age four and up from Japan, and continue the theme by serving sushi or tempura veggies with green or herb tea, and Pocky snacks (available in most ethnic grocery stores). Try similar pairings with other excellent, family-friendly films like The Cave of the Yellow Dog (Mongolia), The Legend of Roan Inish (Ireland), Alamar (Mexico/Italy), Children of Heaven(Iran), and many more. Make time after the movie or the next day to talk about the film. This sort of discussion can launch powerful uniting, connecting, and learning between parents and children - for a lifetime.
  • Play! Playground games, table games like chess and checkers that transcend language barriers, and especially sports from soccer to tennis can open a door to the world. During the four years in between the World Cup and Olympic games, follow youth tournaments, learn about top teams and the heroes of your favorite sport in various countries, root for them, learn about the places and cultures they came from, or donate grown-out equipment to a sister team in a needy community. Unplug and move it - like kids all over the world do.
  • Celebrate! Experiencing new celebrations helps ease into profound learning about a culture or belief system, for any age. Some of my children's most memorable times with friends have been during a Hanukkah celebration, midnight mass, dinner during Ramadan or Eid, Diwali and Ayyam-i-Ha parties. Kids don't usually realize they are dispelling prejudices commonly carried into adulthood, because they're having so much fun. If you must, invite yourself. Unless there is a tradition or space restriction, the answer usually is YES!
  • Dedicate a weekend to a continent (or country). Travel to South Africa, Egypt, France or China might be out of your family's budget, but you can dedicate a weekend to "exploring" these cultures - within driving distance. For example, find a concert or street fair from that country in a nearby city and anchor the weekend around that event. Then enjoy the cuisine, an art exhibit, shopping, and a movie from that culture for an unforgettable adventure. In preparation, learn a few phrases in that language, find countries that speak it on a map, download their popular music, or read a book set there. When you've made this sort of effort for one or more countries, chances go way up that your children will actually make it there. By high school they could apply for travel or language scholarships through organizations like Rotary International, AFS, and the U.S. State Department's NSLI-Y.

I'd love to hear about your own experiences. What challenges, dilemmas, or opportunities have you encountered in raising little global citizens, or just trying to be one yourself?

If you'd like to know more, look for a copy of Growing Up Global at your local library or bookstore.

Growing Up Global: Raising Children to be At Home in the World

By Homa Sabet Tavangar
Random House Publishing
order from amazon


... Payvand News - 09/22/10 ... --

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