My American-born son sometimes says to me: “Mom, why do I need to speak Hindi? No one else speaks it. My teachers don’t, and my friends don’t. And anyway, I am American, not Indian.” When he asks me these questions, I explain that because his parents were born in India, and brought up within Indian culture, it will always be a big part of his life.
These conversations are often frustrating, but I do not blame my son. Growing up in Kuwait, I too had a hard time associating myself with India. Moving to the US made it clearer – having lived in 7 cities in three countries, all the cultures I enjoyed made me who I am. Each gave me a new perspective, and each helped me appreciate the uniqueness of the others.
Not everyone has the opportunity to live in multiple countries, and those who haven’t need to be especially mindful of succumbing to cultural blindness. Each of us lives in a sort of cultural bubble – a comfort zone that gets formed due to our current environment. It’s made of age, place, and most importantly life experiences. To widen and loosen this bubble, it’s essential that our kids learn other cultural perspectives in order to understand – there is more than one way to view the world.
Here are 4 easy ways to expand your family’s cultural horizons:
Photo Credit: Pixabay.com
1. Read from the source
Today’s targeted social media validates most aspects of your own, current thinking (e.g., political and cultural views). Thus, much news and information that comes your way seems to confirm what you already “know”, rather than challenge you. Which is why it is so important to also read sources other than your current country’s mainstream media.
Read articles that originate directly from the country or culture you would like to learn about, and keep the lines of dialogue open with your children. Help them find similarities, and compare differences to their own lives. As a family, review the other country’s cultural values and traditions. You just might find something new you can all implement together.
2. Aim for a well-rounded travel experience
Traveling is expensive (whether within our own countries or to foreign countries), and most parents can only embark upon new adventures rarely. To parents who are financially fortunate enough to occasionally manage some travel for your families: please seek out more than just the “main attractions”.
Make sure you see the “real” city or location you are traveling to. Talk to the locals and find the places they think represent the area best. Experience the culture in its totality. The further you go from the tourist attractions, the more authentic your experience will become.
3. Don’t hold onto your own heritage too hard
We fear losing our heritage. If you are living in a location different from where you grew up, you may know what I am talking about. Many of us want our children to pass our culture on, and in many cases, we start reaching more into our own heritage to ensure our culture’s survival. Ideally, we would maintain a balance between our heritage and the heritage of the many cultures surrounding us.
Make sure to reach out to new cultures and let your kids explore. They will then imbibe their own set of values, and discover themselves as well.
4. Ask questions to avoid falling prey to diversity blindness
Encourage your kids to reach out to those who seem different. Go to events (festivals, places of worship, etc.) where you and your children can be immersed in a different culture, and let your kids see you asking questions. You’ll probably be surprised by how open people are to teaching you about their culture, and your kids will learn to be open-minded about other worldviews.
When you find yourself feeling the world is a very small place, remind yourself to explore more – even close to home. For an example understood by Americans: life in the desert Southwest is very different from life in the Eastern US; this applies not just to landscapes and climate, but to human culture as well. We must understand that there are many perspectives in our small world, and though we are all similar in many ways, we are not the same.
Cultural tunnel vision is common, and often passed on to our children subconsciously.
As parents, some of our duties are to expand our children’s current perceptions and future possibilities. If the next generation enjoys well-rounded cultural experiences, they better understand facets of their own lives they want to hold onto. It helps them grow into positive, global thought leaders, and inspires appreciation for all cultures – no matter how different from their own.
About the Author:
Aditi Wardhan Singh is a Postivity Coach specializing in cultural integration of families. Through her work she provides parents with tools to empower their children to become positive, global thought leaders. She is the founder and chief editor of Raising World Children a magazine which brings people from around the world together to talk positively about the synergy of cultures with life. She is a contributor to Thrive Global, Huffington Post, Richmond Moms Blog and has been featured on various national websites like Nbc12 News and City Moms Blog Network. Having impromptu dance parties with her two lovely children is her ultimate picker-upper.