Raising Global Citizens for a Better Tomorrow
I was going to write this week’s post on pumpkin muffins for toddlers… but I can’t write about pumpkin muffins this week. There is something far more important to address that concerns me as a mother and as a human. And that is the war that started with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
Since that initial invasion, a little over a week has passed and people are fleeing Ukraine. Their lives have been completely upended, and too many people have already died. Some people are stuck in Ukraine, some are staying to fight, some are traveling long distances to cross the border, and many are looking back at loved ones they had to leave behind. These are just ordinary everyday people, like you or me.
This is not the first time a group of people has had to endure tragedy, violence and aggression; but it doesn’t quite seem real in 2022. It really seems like we should have progressed past this kind of warfare by now. How does a man like Putin exist?
Recognizing our Common Humanity
I imagine having to take my 2 year old from our home and say goodbye to my husband (all men between 18-60 are banned from leaving Ukraine), not knowing whether I would see him again or not. And not even knowing if my child and I could safely make it out of the country. Not to mention, what would we do if and when we got out? Where would we go? How would we live?
If you haven’t watched any of the footage or listened to any interviews with those being impacted in Ukraine, I encourage you to do so. The Daily podcast offers several episodes that are both informative and heartbreaking, and BBC and NPR share current videos and articles.
A war or any tragic conflict, whether on a global scale or even on a personal scale, has a way of bringing the most important things into laser focus. A lot of things I preoccupy myself with suddenly feel frivolous. And I have to ask myself, what is truly important in this life?
As much as I am focused on the tragedy of the situation, I am also trying to catch sight of any glimmers of hope. And I do see tiny glimmers. There are people around the world expressing unified support for Ukraine and condemning the War. Even the European Union has acted swiftly and collaboratively imposing sanctions against Russia. So these displays of unity and humanitarianism give me hope.
Raising My Child to be a Global Citizen
So as I continue to ingest media coverage on Ukraine, I think about what I can do. And honestly, it doesn’t feel like much and it isn’t much. I am reading about these tragedies from the comfort of my home, 5,000 plus miles away.
But this tragedy has got me thinking about how I want to raise my son. It sounds so cliche, but as parents we have this amazing opportunity to try and help better society and help humanity evolve by nurturing our children.
And while I know my 2 year old isn’t going to solve any of Ukraine’s problems today, maybe he can be part of a future generation that will help prevent such crises from arising in the first place. So I am thinking about how I can encourage him to identify not only as an individual and an American citizen, but also as a global citizen.
The United Nations describes global citizenship as follows,
The term can refer to the belief that individuals are members of multiple, diverse, local and non-local networks rather than single actors affecting isolated societies. Promoting global citizenship in sustainable development will allow individuals to embrace their social responsibility to act for the benefit of all societies, not just their own.
So rather than thinking about what clothes or toys my son may “need” this week, I am thinking about how to raise a global citizen. And how to model what that means.
Children are Growing up in a Globalized World
I think we are all inevitably and naturally moving towards a global citizenship orientation. The world is rapidly changing and developing, and we are living in an increasingly globalized world.
Globalization is the word used to describe the growing interdependence of the world’s economies, cultures, and populations, brought about by cross-border trade in goods and services, technology, and flows of investment, people, and information.
We are becoming more connected to people around the world than ever before. For example, it’s rare to see someone without a cell phone these days. Even young kids. And those phones have internet and social media. News travels fast. Videos go viral. And everyone can share their opinions and experiences on the worldwide web.
And these past couple of years, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that when it comes down to it, we are all here on the same planet and can all be affected by a singular event. And while it is unclear what the situation in Ukraine will become, it very well could turn into something that impacts many countries around the world.
How to Raise Our Children as Global Citizens
So how do we teach our kids to embrace this responsibility of being part of a globalized world and become global citizens? How do I raise my child to consider people across all cultures and countries? To exercise caution and skepticism, but also to be open and curious? How do I teach him how to consume news critically, and spread news thoughtfully? And how to recognize his own privilege and watch out for those who may not have the same?
1. Stay up to Date on International Affairs
2. Foster Multicultural Awareness
I have been struck by photographs shared by media organizations like NPR recently, of people holding up signs at railway stations for refugees. Signs saying things like, “1 room for mother + child”. How amazing that these people are welcoming strangers in need into their homes.
While it is true that we unfortunately live in a world where we have to be on alert for potentially dangerous individuals, I have to remind myself that most people are just decent humans who want to live a happy life. And I want my son to recognize this as well.
Some ideas on ways to foster multicultural awareness;
- Get to know your local community.
- Get to know communities outside your local community, through travel and education.
- Get to know people of all different economic and cultural backgrounds.
3. Encourage Collaboration
GVI lists the following foundational skills that global citizens nurture to create a global culture of collaboration;
- Problem-solving skills
- Decision-making skills
- Critical thinking skills
- Communication skills
4. Encourage Gratitude
When it comes to being a global citizen, exercising gratitude and empathy also come to mind. When we feel deep gratitude for our lives, we learn to honor the value of others’ lives as well and we have empathy. And empathy helps us to relate to one another and find compassion and a common ground on which we can all stand peacefully.
I was prompted to consider this aspect of gratitude and empathy when it comes to global citizenship after seeing a set of images from Reuters. In these photos, newborns and their parents along with hospital staff are taking shelter in the basement of a Ukrainian maternity ward after air raid alerts.
Having my son and a last minute C section was such a huge and overwhelming moment, I can’t imagine having the stress of worrying about a potential bombing in the midst of that. So when I think back on my relatively cushy hospital experience, I realize I have a lot to be grateful for. And I feel even more for those parents in Ukraine who are bringing new life into the world in the midst of a war.
So how do I foster gratitude and empathy in my child? While I have a 2 year old who probably isn’t processing much about what is behind the words thank you, I can still introduce him to this phrase. And more importantly, model the sentiment behind “thank you”. I can show him and teach him how to appreciate the good things in this life.
Verywell Mind cites studies showing the positive relationship between gratitude and happiness in kids as young as 5 years old. And for older kids, they cite a link between gratitude, giving social support, and improved mental health.
Standing Together as Global Citizens
As I sit here and wrap up my thoughts, I realize the irony of talking about global citizenship as Ukraine fights a war against Russia alone. While other countries are imposing sanctions on Russia, sending military equipment to Ukraine and opening their borders for refugees, they are not sending their troops into Ukraine to help defend the country.
While so many people around the world and leaders of other countries are acknowledging the tragedy of what is happening in Ukraine, they also acknowledge that Russia is a superpower. With more nuclear weapons than any other country. And they fear escalating a volatile situation into what could potentially become a world war.
While I feel helpless when watching footage of residential bombings and exhausted refugees, I am determined to be a better global citizen going forward. And to raise my son to also value global citizenship and humanitarianism; to recognize the non-negotiable value of other humans walking around on this earth. Through multicultural awareness, gratitude, empathy and collaboration, I believe we can be better.
Please use the space in the comments below to share any thoughts or feelings regarding this post, thank you ♡