In addition to intelligence, emotional, social, and adversity quotient, there is another important type of intelligence we need to promote – cultural intelligence in children. Cultural intelligence (CQ) is our ability to rightly recognize, understand, and adapt to different cultures as if they were our own.
Why is cultural intelligence important in children
With a more interconnected world physically and virtually, our children need to develop cultural intelligence to have better relations with peers and friends. By understanding and accepting other cultures, our children can better communicate, understand, and empathize with other children. They can quickly adapt to new workplaces and communities as they enter the world when they become adults. They would become stewards of peace, unity, camaraderie, and innovation in these places.
How to develop cultural intelligence in children
So how do we instill cultural intelligence in children? Here are some tips:
1. Let them learn about other cultures
Learning about other cultures helps our children understand other people and their practices more. You can try the following activities:
- Encourage them to make friends with other children from different cultural backgrounds.
- Watch age-appropriate international films.
- Visit museums,
- Read books with themes about intercultural travel or friendship.
- Watch documentaries about other countries or religions.
- Prepare international food or go to restaurants that serve dishes from other countries.
- Encourage observing other people’s behavior that can teach them about different cultures.
- Learn fun facts and bits of history of other countries to instill cultural knowledge leading to cultural intelligence in children.
Below is an excerpt from TransCultural Group’s August 2022 newsletter giving us fun facts about countries celebrating their independence annually every August:
Q1. Do you know that owning only one guinea pig in Switzerland is illegal? Yes -The Animal Protection Ordinance in Switzerland dictates that guinea pigs (and a few other species like parrots) are very sociable animals, so one must have them in a group of at least two.
Q2. For those with IT background: Do you know that the World Wide Web was invented in Switzerland? Yes – Sir Tim Berners-Lee, a British scientist, invented the World Wide Web while working at CERN, Switzerland, in 1989.
Q3. For any proclaimed economist, do you know that India has a population that is more than the Western Hemisphere? Yes – According to United Nations, India has the 2nd largest population (1.4B) in the world (after China). In the Western Hemisphere, the most populated country, the U.S.A, has 333M, followed by Brazil with 215M and Mexico with 128M. Germany, the largest country in Europe, only has 84M.
Q4. For any history buff (or my Italian friends), do you know that Marco Polo may have been the first European who visited Indonesia? Yes – Allegedly, Marco Polo was the first European to mention Indonesia in his travelogue. Apparently, he spent five months on “Java the Less”, i.e. Sumatra.
Q5. Finally, do you know that Singapore has its entire National Anthem lyrics printed on its S$1,000 note? Yes – Unfortunately, the S$1,000 note has been discontinued since 2021. So you can’t get it from the bank anymore for your collection.
2. Involve your children in group activities
While the school can be an excellent venue for your children to mingle and make friends, other group activities can help them establish new friendships outside their comfort zone. Group activities like team sports can also help children overcome shyness and be interested in other people and cultures. Children can be more comfortable building relationships with children who are not like them.
3. Let them be aware of themselves in relation to others
Self-awareness is a necessary trait to have if you want to develop cultural intelligence in children. This trait can help them see how different they can be in relation to others regarding appearances, culture, preferences, practices, and beliefs. Once they can identify themselves with others, they will learn to accept themselves and other children. They will learn to accept and respect these differences and create harmonious relationships with other children.
4. Lead by example
Our children look up to us, and there is no better way to teach our children than by setting a good example. For them to become culturally intelligent, we have to be good role models. You can start by seeking friendships with people from different cultures or religions, learning a new language, and exploring different cuisines.
More than expanding your cultural knowledge, set a good example when managing your biases. If you have been biased in one way or another, be honest to admit it. Show your child that you are sorry about it and that you are working on it.
By developing cultural intelligence in children, you will be confident that they grow up to be open-minded, adaptable, empathic, and sensible individuals, bound to succeed in the future.