Raising a Culturally Conscious Kid
Recently, after a visiting their father in London, my two children became acutely aware of their mixed cultures. When in London living under the British culture they eat beans for breakfast with their father. While in London visiting their Dad's friends and relatives, they learned of his West Indian roots, and the two Caribbean countries represented in his family.
Like many children, mine are a mix of cultures, and many others (maybe even yours) are a different mix of races and ethnicities. And why not? We are a nation of immigrants.
The good news is that we now live in a world where faraway lands aren’t quite so, well, faraway. And even I realized I, being a black American, had not taught my children much about their West Indian parentage on their father’s side. How can I raise a culturally conscious child--one that has pride in their own and appreciation for other cultures?
Appreciate culture through food: Whether you’re teaching your child about your own culture or other cultures, making food together is a nice and inexpensive way to do that. I also attempt to replicate delicacies from all over the world. Shrimp curry from Thailand, anyone? What about avocado cucumber rolls from Japan? Some good sites for recipes are: allrecipes.com, about.com/food and foodnetwork.com. We also venture out and expand our palate by eating at local places that specialize in foods from other cultures. I often find that waiters are more than happy to answer questions about the history of a certain dish, how to eat it, or make recommendations. An ethnic restaurant is also a good place to be a spectator on the country’s customs. For example, how do they greet each other?
Attend cultural events: Local festivals and parades are a great way to see how people from different countries celebrate their culture. We love to do this. Often, there are also vendors selling their crafts and food at these events. You’d be surprised how much fun attending a Chinese New Year’s celebration can be.
Find cultural hubs: Why not head to your nearby Little Italy or Little India? What about a Chinatown? Venture into the shops and check out their wares.
Dig up some interesting factoids: My son loves science and anything about the planets and stars. So I try to find interesting facts or contributions by people from certain countries—and a few from the countries represented in our family. My daughter is a dance buff, so music is a great entry point with her. But you can do the same with mathematical concepts, sports, architecture and the arts.