10 Ways to Teach Your Children About Their Culture
This post is part 2 of the Raising Children in Saudi Arabia series.
No doubt, it takes a village to raise a child. But what if you are an expat and you are your child’s only example of your culture? How then will you help them learn about life from your home country?
The responsibility all lies on our shoulders and it is not easy. As a second generation expat, I try hard in ensuring that my kids know their culture. I want them to be confident and proud of who they are. I want them to be little ambassadors taking their identity and sharing it with the world. Do you feel that way too?
Here are 10 ways your child can learn more about who he is and that it is okay to be different.
Encourage your child to embrace his culture
- Wear your culture. Don’t be shy to wear your traditional dress. Let your child see you wear them often and that it is the norm to wear them around town and in front of your friends. Many children feel shy in wearing their traditional clothes. They feel like the odd one out. By seeing you wear your dress at home, they learn that it is okay. When they see you going out and meeting your friends in your cultural dresses, they know it is okay. So go ahead and encourage them by modeling your culture in front of them. At home, we have the tradition that we will wear ethnic wear to the Friday prayers. I have found that if you have more of those type of clothes in the wardrobe, they will wear it. Hang them up in broad view so it is hard to miss. Help them choose pretty and fun colors themselves.
- Talk about your childhood. Kids love stories and if they are from their parent’s or grandparent’s times, all the more! Your childhood paints a picture of what is ‘home’ like for them so talk about it.
- Speak your language. Let it be your family’s first language. You are passing on your heritage and at the same time teaching your child to be proud of who he is. Teach them to read and write their mother language too because this is how he will read the books of your country. I love collecting books and children’s magazines in the languages that we speak. As I said earlier, if you have the content lying around, your child will be curious to read it!
- Talk about history. History talks about how people lived in the past. It also tells why people are the way they are now. Books and stories of how nations came to be, help in growing thinkers. Since here, living as expats, it is hardly possible that your child will learn about your country’s history through books. We need to supplement that with our own learning. I find it best to have history books in our home. I have bought school books that children their age may be studying back home and also stories about historic figures. If the books are there in front of them, they will read it. You may find it easy to read at bedtime too.
- Celebrate your traditions and festivals. Tradition and faith are two different things. Your faith is your religion but your country may have different traditional festivals like harvest festivals or seasonal ones, etc. Celebrate those with your children even though nobody around you may be celebrating them. One year, we had fun time celebrating Kite Festival in Jeddah with family. Another year we weren’t able to go out to fly kites so my children and I used scrap paper to make a fun kite craft. You see, it is all about creativity and an excuse to have fun!
- Eat your traditional food and taste other cuisines. There is this fantastic book that we discovered a few years ago. Rice and Rocks. It was a great conversation starter in our home. You can read the review here on my blog but the story is very simple: ‘We all eat the same food around the world’. Isn’t that a sweet story? I make our traditional recipes a part of my meal planning. Most of our food is fusion cooking but I make sure that once a week, we are eating traditional recipes either from our own culture or a different one. Click here to see how I meal plan.
- Talk about your manners. Manners teach children about your culture as well as what is the acceptable form of respect. What may seem casual in your culture may be considered blunt in another. It’s a fun topic for kids that teaches a lot about human interaction. Sending children to multicultural schools here in Jeddah has taught me first hand that manners among cultures are so different. How we bring up our child depends on how we were brought up with our traditions too.
- Stay connected to your relatives. Yes, a Skype call with their grandmother or sending a card to your cousin on their wedding helps practice all what you are teaching and more!
- Invite people from your culture or go visit them. Meeting others like themselves reassures them that there are others like them.
- Travel every chance you have. Seeing new places and knowing different people helps children understand who they are. It also helps them appreciate their own culture.
These are just 10 ways I am encouraging my children. As a young mother these are my experiences but I’d love to hear about how you are encouraging your child to learn more about your culture. Tell me in the comments.