Dona Nobis Pacem (10 Ideas for Fostering International Understanding in Your Kids)

By , November 7, 2007 12:59 am

Sometimes I am a glass half-full type of person, and sometimes I am more inclined to be a glass-half empty type.

About peace…I think I am running on empty. I feel that throughout history there never has been peace. There never will be peace in the future either. It is just human nature to fight.

Religion, which is supposed to be all about peace (no matter what the religion), seems often to make matters worse. The Crusades, the Inquisition, etc. I’ll stop my brief list there so as to not get myself into too much trouble.

The glass half-full part of me says: “Hey, wait a minute! Why not start with the children?”

Well, why not start with the children? What an excellent idea. If all the world’s children could learn about and appreciate other cultures, races, and religions, then wouldn’t there HAVE to be peace?

Glass half-empty says: “There is no way to teach every child in the world these things!”

Glass half-full says: “Maybe not, but the way to start is with our own children. Let’s teach them about the beauty of diversity.”

Yes let’s.


Here are ten thoughts on how to do that:

1) Have your child learn a foreign language, either through their school or through home, online or language school study. The US is one of the only countries in the world where a child/adult can get all the way through school, and even college and beyond, without learning another language.

2) Take your children to local multicultural events such as Chinese New Year celebrations, Greek festivals, etc. Check your local paper for details.

3) Travel with your children, which leads to the next suggestion:

4) Get your child a passport now so that he or she can travel with you when old enough, and the opportunity for foreign travel arises. Passport processing is taking a long time these days, so why not simply put it on your to-do list and get it over with right away. (Most US post offices can issue passports and even take the passport photos, it is very easy). By the way, passports are now required for air travel to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda, even for infants.

5) If your children are teens and are interested…let them be an exchange student. I did it as a teen (twice) and it totally changed my life!

Youth for Understanding (the program I used)

AFS Intercultural Programs


6) Host an exchange student in your home (it doesn’t have to be for a year, it can be a semester, a summer, or even less!) Check out links above, or Google “international student exchange.”

7) Get your child a penpal. Google “penpal” for some sites that can arrange this. Being the paranoid parent, I would check it out carefully first though before signing up. I would choose a “snail mail” penpal over an email one, and would monitor the whole thing very carefully. Check with your child’s school too. Often penpal arrangements can be made through a teacher at school. If a teacher has contact with a teacher in a foreign country, many times classes can exchange letters.

8) Go to the library and check out an international cookbook. Cook an exotic foreign meal together, talk a little about that country, and find it on the map or globe.

9) If you and your family are really in the mood for adventure, either rent a house in a foreign country or do a house swap. A house swap is where you trade a month in your house, for a month in someone else’s house for example. Sometimes the trade even includes the use of a car. There are many websites dedicated to rentals and home swaps. The classifieds in the back of alumni magazines are also a good source. Many college alums prefer to rent their foreign house or apartment to another responsible alum rather than a total stranger.

Here are some house swap websites (note: I am not personally familiar with any of these):

HomeLink International

Home Exchange

Home Xchange Vacation

10) And of course the simplest and cheapest way to expose your children to other cultures, is to read to them. Go to the library. Read multicultural books to your children. Check my International Children’s Book Day post for detailed suggestions of books and web links to books for some ideas.

For inspiration, here are some of our favorite multicultural/international books. The last one is a real eye-opener: Material World: A Global Family Portrait, is geared more toward adults, but children will find it fascinating too, when read with an adult.

(For more info on two of these titles: I have written posts about Wake Up World, and Let’s Eat – plus another here about Let’s Eat)

Dona Nobis Pacem…Grant Us Peace – PLEASE!!!

Please visit Mimi’s Blog to find links to many, many, many more Peace Posts today.

Also, for more thoughts on peace, please visit my June Dona Nobis Pacem post.

12 Responses to “Dona Nobis Pacem (10 Ideas for Fostering International Understanding in Your Kids)”

  1. Don Mills Diva says:

    Those are wonderful ideas and ones I fully plan to implement with my son – thanks for the inspiration.

  2. cynematic says:

    i also like the other Peter Menzel book, Hungry Planet. my 4-year old can look at the pictures of people and what they eat in a week without having to be able to read.

    cool blog–i added you to my blogroll!

  3. Travis says:

    My post today is about activism, but yours actually tells how to be active. Well done!

    Peace to you and yours on this wonderful Peace Globe Day and always.

  4. tegdirb92 says:

    what a beautiful post for peace, my globe is up and flying today….Peace to you!!

  5. CountryDew says:

    What a lovely and thoughtful post. Of course we must start with the children. Of course. Brilliant. Peace to you and yours.

  6. Bond says:

    My theme was similar…

    Searching For A Peaceful World on


  7. Jenny says:

    How cool that you were an exchange student- I wanted to do that myself but never looked into it seriously enough. I love your book list- CJ adores “Children Like Me”. I’m hoping that by showing her that there are people of all different races/ colors now that she’ll grow up knowing that everyone is different- but still the same. Great post.

  8. Andamom says:

    What a wonderful post once again… Although this one was close to my heart… I grew up in a very international area (outside of Washington, DC) and many of my friends came from other countries because their parents were diplomats or worked at scientific (NIH) and financial (World Bank, IMF, IMDB, etc.) hubs in the area. I didn’t need to travel or host exchange students because I was surrounded by so many cultures… People from: Armenia, Nigeria, Bolivia, Colombia, Japan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Sweden, Togo, Cameroon, Madagascar, Peru, France, and Vietnam to name but a few locations. I grew up thinking that everyone’s parents spoke multiple languages and knew details about political situation around the world.

    As you know, in my household, there are people of various heritages — and we celebrate and rejoice in all of these cultures. We also celebrate with our friends who have different holidays.

    Living now in Brooklyn, it is rather easy to try different cuisines because there are restaurants for just about everything. Of course, we travel whenever we can to explore what life is truly like in other places.

    My husband actually did Rotary when he was in high school and loved it as well. We’ve considered it for our daughter when she gets older… and hope that we’ll one day have sufficient space to put up an exchange student (granted this would be after we adopt).

    I do have more to say… but I’ve been a bit too verbose eh?

    Again, great post… (oh and we’re all still thinking about ‘RED’!)

  9. Jeff B says:

    I’m fortunate that my parents were willing to host several students. As a result of those wonderful experiences my wife and I also host, our kids love it.

    Great practical words you sharred.

  10. Mimi Lenox says:

    This is one awesome post. You have taken a much needed direction for this day and involved our children. So much information here. This is true activisim!
    Thank you so much for writing this insightful and thorough – and honest – post on the peace process. I love the glass analogy.

    Peace to you and yours everyday.

  11. […] then all participants get together and write about peace on a certain day. I did it last June and November and intend to continue. I hope any other bloggers out there will join us next June! I’ll post […]

  12. […] + My post about ways to foster international understanding and interest in your children. […]

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