I’ve been in this country more than 20 years I’ve spent more than half of my life here. My family is what you would call first generation immigrants. My children were born and raised here and it’s imperative for them to know where my husband and I are from and where their grand parents are from.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, there are approximately 990,553 immigrants lawfully admitted into the United States each year. Which means more and more blended cultures and families, it can be difficult to teach your children about their heritage. There are many ways that you can include things you learned while back home into your children’s present and future, while showing them how to embrace the beauty that make them unique.
Tips to Help Teach Kids About Their Heritage
Knowledge is Power
In order to teach your children, you’ve to be informed on what your heritage and culture is. Thankfully, my parents raised me with enough knowledge about our background that it has become my way of life, so teaching our children is a natural progression. The first thing you need to do, is understand your heritage and if your husband is from a different country, understand his heritage as well. If your children are adopted, you can choose to explore their birth parents heritage to help him or her gain a better understanding of where they originated.
Thanks to the internet, you can learn about unique cultural traditions, country history, styles of clothing and popular food recipes. You can also visit your local library to get books for an in-depth look into the history. It’s also important to find out the reasons behind the traditions, giving you more insight into your heritage.
The earlier you can start teaching your children the better. You can start by teaching them the local language that represents their heritage. Being bilingual can be fun and could offer potential benefits when they become older. Studies shows, it’s easier to learn a second language at a young age than it’s for adults.
If you don’t know the language, make it a family affair and learn it along with your children. Pick up a few bilingual books, or download language apps if possible. Make it a goal to read together several times each week. As you master the language, reserve a few nights a week where you only use the new language. Make a game out of it, the first person to speak without using the language loses.
Get the Children Involve
Try and get the children involve every step of the way. They might be able to help you, as you prepare some traditional meals. For us, we try as much as possible to include traditional foods as part of our weekly menu. We often take our kids shopping with us at the specialty (ethic) store. We attend events geared towards our culture and heritage. We watch movies to show them what life is back home. If you’re lucky enough to have a museum or art gallery that caters to your heritage, definitely check it out. When possible, we try to celebrate traditional holidays, and sometimes the kids join in the local heritage parade and festivals. Employ the help of older family members – grandparents, aunties and uncles so they can share some of the history with the kids. Take the children shopping for some traditional clothes, while you explain to them the reason behind it.
Make it Fun
Music and dance are often favorite activities for children. Dancing provides great exercise and a unique learning opportunity. Most cultures have some form of traditional dance and music. Internet radio apps, makes it possible to listen to music from other countries. You can also search YouTube for music videos and learn the traditional dance. Amazon has an extensive collection of world music as well.
However, if you truly want to immerse them in the culture, consider taking a vacation to your home country. It will be a great opportunity to put the language they’ve learned to good use, plus they will get a chance to taste some of the authentic meals you’ve attempted at home.
It’s important to us that we teach our girls about their roots, do you feel the same way. If so, how are you teaching your kids about their heritage?