01/09/2012 AT 02:00 PM EST
is as well known for her work helping refugees around the world as she is for making movies
. But she'll let her kids decide for themselves whether they want to follow in her activist footsteps.
"I'm not one of those moms who kind of lectures [my kids]," Jolie, 36, told reporters on Saturday at the 23rd Annual Palm Springs Film Festival. "But I do tell them, whenever I go on a trip, where I'm going and why. And on some occasions, they've come with me to different refugee camps. And they also go to their home countries
The actress, who wore an Elie Saab gown to the festival's awards gala, has faith her little ones will make decisions based on what they see in their day-to-day lives.
"Hopefully they live in the world, and they see the world really as it is, outside of Hollywood," she says. "If they really live in the world and spend time with friends around the world from all different types of backgrounds, they [will] just see things as they are."
Even though Jolie doesn't expect her children to take up the same causes, she does look for opportunities – such as daughter Zahara's birthday on Sunday – to remind them about who they are and where they come from
"We make sure we're very aware of her culture and her heritage," Jolie says of Zahara, who turned 7 on Sunday. "She's an African-American girl, so we make that a part of anything she does. So that'll be a part of her [birthday]."