Becoming Culturally Sensitive

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Individuals within Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programs are active participants in the influence on young children’s cultural identity.  Therefore, ECCE programs should consider providing a culturally relevant and responsive environment that acknowledges, respects, and welcomes a variety of cultural practices. Creating a culturally relevant and responsive environment requires one to be culturally sensitive.

What is cultural sensitivity?

Cultural sensitivity is having an ongoing awareness of your own and other’s cultural contexts. ECCE professionals can improve cultural sensitivity by being more aware of the verbal and nonverbal messages given to children and families within the program. ECCE professionals can begin by looking critically at their own identity and attitudes toward others. These professionals can also reflect on early messages received and how these messages were internalized. It is important to challenge assumptions made about other cultures. We need to make a commitment to learning about the cultural perspectives of others.

Be a life-long learner

True culturally sensitive includes continuing to have conversations with others and having a continuing willingness to see the world from many different and equally valid perspectives. Lynch and Hanson (2011) state, “Achieving cross-cultural competence requires that we lower our defenses, take risks, and practice behaviors that may feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable” (p. 41). Thinking about children and their families from a positive and strengths-based approach, rather than a deficient model will assist individuals in adjusting their cultural lens.

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By: Mary Sciaraffa, CFLE, PhD, professor, EKU Child and Family Studies Program


Lynch, E.W. and Hanson, M.J. (2011). Developing Cross-Cultural Competence: A Guide for Working with Children and Their Families. 4th Edition. Brookes Publishing   ISBN-13: 978-1-59857-163-9

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