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Tips to Practice Cultural Humility with Your Kids by South Shore Therapies

How To Practice Cultural Humility With Your Kids

Cultural Humility is defined as a way or incorporating multiculturalism through flexibility and awareness of bias. It is a lifelong, learning-oriented approach to working with diversity; and a recognition of the role of power in health care interactions. As we enter the last week of black history month, we wanted to highlight the importance of yrarlong and life long learning as it relates to race and cultural. This article aims to provide ways in which you and your child can engage in, and practice, cultural humility.

As American families become increasingly diverse and complex in terms of race, ethnicity, immigrant status, socioeconomic circumstances, and family structures, it is imperative that we practice cultural humility – to move beyond simply being aware of or sensitive to people’s cultural differences, and actively work to identify and address systematic inequalities. Cultural Humility was developed by Melanie Tervalon and Jann Murray-Garcia in 1998 to address inequalities in the healthcare field, but is now used in many facets of life.

It is important to note that culture is a much broader concept that encompasses “any dimension of diversity, including class, gender, sexual orientation, and ability” (Hammell, 2013, p. 224). To complicate matters further, we are all members of multiple cultural groups, with intersecting, multilayered identities. However, when we think we ‘know’ a culture or ‘understand’ an individual, it can lead to a misunderstanding because of the sheer complexity of culture.  Cultural humility puts an emphasis on learning rather than knowing, a recognition of our own biases and limitations to our knowledge of another’s culture.  As adults, it is our responsibility to provide our kids with the tools to practice cultural humility each day. As explained by Danny Wagner in an article posted on MindShift “Whether our kids are seeking to relate to someone of a different race, age, or gender, kids who can better keep themselves in perspective and practice cultural humility are more likely to value the contributions of others to their lives -- a necessity when fostering truly collaborative, forward-thinking societies”.

4 ways to practice cultural humility with your kids:

1.   Self reflection:

  • Let’s be serious, self reflection takes a certain level of interception and vulnerability. It requires us to deliberately pay attention to our thoughts, emotions, decisions and behaviors. But self reflection can also be so powerful to help us grow and develop and is an essential part of practicing cultural humility. Before you can promote self reflection with your kids, it is important to start with yourself. How do your emotions effect your decisions? Was there a certain instance today that you acted in a way that you are not proud of? What was underlying this decision or action?  Actively modeling and practicing self reflection allows your to incorporate a narrative of openness, growth and vulnerability within your home. It is important to have these discussions with your kids and encourage them to reflect and bring awareness to their individual thoughts, emotions and decisions and create an openness to new learning. Some ways to promote self reflection at home:
    • Model It: Talk openly about your process of self reflection and how you are learning. Our kids learn so much by watching and interacting with those around them.
    • Family Discussions: Make it a routine that at dinner time each evening you discuss and highlight the similarities and differences you and your children encounter daily. Asking direct questions  like “who in your class do you share similarities with (where they were born, where their grandparents were born, etc.)?” and “What ways to you share similarities with classmates/peers who look different then you?”  Maybe a peer has a different color skin from you but they love Daniel Tiger just like you. How cool! Drawing connections through collective humanity fosters inclusivity."
    • Incorporate Into Nighttime Routine: Before bed each night you take 5 minutes to reflect together on what they saw, experiences, noticed and learned during the day – and set goals for the following day. In your reflection, use this as an opportunity to learn more about different cultures – maybe  you can help your child determine what they can ask a peer at school the next day in order for them to learn something new about a different culture or race. Or maybe
    • Journaling: Encourage your kids to take 5 minutes to journal about their day. Maybe you are writing about how you learned you like dumplings – because your family had then for dinner from the local Chinese restaurant in your neighborhood. Instead of just writing that, take time to research where dumplings originated and how they are eaten across the world.
  • Learn more about self reflection HERE:


2.   Listen, Ask, Learn:

  • We have discussed how cultural humility is an ongoing and life long process, which means you have to be open to constantly learning and adapting your thought processes and knowledge base. Now that you have incorporated self reflection into your daily routine, it can allow you and your kids to be more present and available in the moment to listen ask and learn.
    • Listen: listen to what they are saying and also what they are NOT saying. What does their body language tell you? Listening requires more than just our ears, but our whole body. Teach your kids how they can listen with their eyes, their ears and their whole body.
    • Ask: Remember, every individual has their own story, so it is important not to assume you know what to say or how to act. Although it may be uncomfortable in the moment, ask the hard questions. If you don’t inquire, how are you going to learn? Teach your kids it is okay to ask questions.
    • Learn: When you find the confidence to ask the questions, you might be surprised by the answers you get. Either way, you are being provided information you did not have before. It is so important to not just listen and ask, but to process that information and learn from it; to foster knowledge.


3.   Educate:

  • Once you have fostered the awareness, it is important to continue to gain knowledge. In the technological world we live in, there are so many avenues of education at our fingertips. As an adult, reading articles, joining book clubs, listening to podcasts are all great ways to continue to educate yourself. But it is important to promote and support education with your kids as well. Here are a few ways to help promote cultural humility and continuous education with your kids:
    • Read to your kids: The messages that kids will absorb through literature will impact their beliefs and baises. Children are quick to recognize the exclusion of their identify in books fostering ideas of minimal self worth OR children can recognize their inclusion/over representation of their identity leading to internal beliefs of superiority. Choosing books that can teach about different cultures/identities, support and represent minority cultures, promote inclusivity is a way to practice cultural humility with your kids. Here are a few books we recommend:
    • Food Exploration: Look up and try recipes for foods from a variety of cultures and discuss the history of this food with your kids. Notice different restaurants in your area and make a plan to try them when you decide to ‘order out’ as a family.
    • Watch/Listen: Whatever your family may be interested in doing together – movies, musical theater, dance, music – find songs, shows, clips and stories that showcase different cultures and discuss this representation with your kids.


4.   Volunteer/Donate:

  • Getting involved in the community is one of the best ways to learn about and immerse yourself with those around you. Not only is this helping others, it can be self-rewarding as well. Find a local soup kitchen in your area your whole family can volunteer at. Is there a local park you and your kids can help tend the gardens (Us OT’s love to promote getting messy in the environment)! But in the world of COVID, there are still ways you can volunteer, support and help in a safe way; sewing masks, collecting coats, etc. Here are a few websites with great ideas to help you and your kids get involved.


So what does that look like all together?

  • The day starts as just another 'normal' THursday and you go through the motions to get everyone ready and off to school. Your 3rd grader, Jon, is at school and notices their friend Sam is eating something very different at lunch and it seems like they are really enjoying it, but Jon does not know what it is. It is important to make sure Jon has the tools to be able to ask his friend about it – What is it called? What does it taste like? Sam, is this something your family has a lot? What kind of cuisine is it? Once the questions are asked, it is even more important for Jon to listen to what Sam has to say, and while Jon learning about a new cuisine, he is probably also learning a lot about Sam’s culture and family values. Hopefully when Jon goes home after school, he tells his family about it when they sit down at the dinner table and reflect on the day. As adults, we can take this information and actively use it to foster more direct family conversations, reflection and active learning. As a family, you can research a recipe and cook it together!   Afterwards, maybe you continue to reflect together- what are some of our favorite foods and what cultures do they originate from? Are there some foods from other cultures our family hasn’t explored or our kids have not been introduced to? Should we try to find a new restaurant with a different style of food to try next time it is ‘take out night’? Maybe you can volunteer or find an organization that can your family learn more about a new culture. Model life long learning, exploring, and asking/listening for your kids can help promote cultural humility. 


Remember, developing cultural humility is a lifelong learning process, it is a mindset, it is a choice. Sometimes that may mean getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. It may mean you will be forced to challenge social norms, expectations or beliefs you once accepted at true. Or it might mean admitting you were wrong or mistaken with something you said or did. Through self reflection, you are building awareness of your own identity, culture, and biases. Through listening, asking, and using a variety of means to education yourself and immerse yourself within the community, you are building knowledge. And through synthesis of building awareness and knowledge you are able to build skills needed to practice cultural humility.


We hope you found this post helpful. Click HERE to learn more about what services and supports South Shore Therapies has to offer. Results that make a difference.


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