Can you influence your child’s pride in culture? Absolutely! The difficulty of doing this depends upon your location and your circumstances. Several times at the panel for “How to Successfully Raise a Bilingual Child,” American Born Chinese, Dr. George Hu and Eyee Hsu recalled how they rebelled against Saturday School and speaking Mandarin outside of their home in general. They didn’t want to be different. Being different wasn’t cool. Being American was cool.
Although I wasn’t an American with a non-English language, I did have a weird cultural background. I felt culturally ambiguous, and I flip-flopped my identity since I didn’t have friends I could identify with culturally. My situation was even more complicated because I grew up in a blended family. My dad is pasty white with copper red hair while my mom most frequently identifies as a Native American. She’s copper toned with black hair. My biological father also had some Native American roots.
Growing up in the American public system when diversity was absolutely not valued was really rough. So I can understand on a small scale why Dr. Hu and Eyee Hsu struggled. They didn’t want to be different. Neither did I.
I learned in my diversity training with TeachNOW that ELL learners already struggle with making friends due to their language gaps, so a cultural separation can make things even harder. And, although I’m not in Kansas anymore, Toto, I still worry about how my kids will deal with not fitting into a culture that places so much value on unity and homogeneity. Refer to this eye opening post by a fellow writer about the very real struggle for expats, especially with those of bicultural families.
Luckily for those in the States, education is moving towards inclusion, while true international education programs are already there.
So, how are you going to instill pride in culture?
- No Racism At Home
I can’t emphasize this enough. Parents undermine the desire to pride culture if they model for their children that racism is normal or acceptable. Not only should outside racism be combatted in an intelligent way, but also parents should model combatting their own discriminatory views. In the US from a study by ABC News, 1 in 10 Americans admitted to holding discriminatory views toward Hispanics, and 1 and 4 admitted to holding discriminatory views toward Arab Americans.
- Treasure Cultural Diversity
Another way to instill pride in culture is to treasure all cultures. If you look at other cultures with your child and show the value of cultural identity, your child will naturally see that having a culture is special. This is also a wonderful opportunity to learn about the world around them.
- Get Your Child’s Teacher On Board – Every Year
Since education is moving toward cultural inclusion, you have recent research on your side. Studies show that having some cultural markers within a classroom help students feel safer in their new classroom environments. Also, if the class is purposely studying your child’s cultural roots via language, culture or history, the child will be able to be an expert. This will boost their self-confidence. As her peers also treasure her culture, this will be another source of pride for her own culture. Remember to talk about this with your child’s teacher every year. When they are in Middle and High School, literature and history teachers should be the best advocates, but science and math teachers could pull in culturally relevant activities, too.
- Role Models
Recently in American Education, literature and history teachers have been especially keen on introducing role models for young black men. The reality is that most teachers in our country will not identify with young black men through culture or gender since the majority of US teacher workforce is white and female. Research is also clear that boys in general need strong male role models. Sometimes, that is just not locally accessible to certain cultural groups. Therefore, it is vitally important for you as a parent to introduce role models who can relate to your child through culture, gender and linguistics.
- Teach Cultural Objectivity
Another important factor in instilling pride in culture is teaching cultural objectivity. Before I left the US, I believed that the US was one of the best countries to inhabit. Now that I’m out of the US, I’m jaded toward the US. I’ve kind of had a cultural crisis. What went wrong? I didn’t have cultural objectivity. Primarily, I believed in the media-driven lie that living anywhere else was harder. So when life was hard for me, I was so depressed. Imagine my shock that life has been unbelievably easier for me in China. I really struggle with having pride in being an American; that’s a problem for me if I want my kids to have cultural pride.
I would encourage you to teach your child that no culture or country is perfect. They all disappoint. Life is hard everywhere, and the US and China are no different. They’re just hard in different ways.
- Teach Specific Cultural Stories & History
This should be obvious, but culture is carried through language, stories and history. My family will need to be purposely intentional about teaching American history since we won’t be getting a lot of it if we choose to stay in the Chinese private school system.
- Retell Family Stories
This is perhaps an easy way to instill pride in culture that is overlooked by some. One way my grandfather and dad did a great job in making everyone feel cozy when we were at home was to sit around the table and play card games. While we played Uno or Skipbo, Pappaw would start telling some hilarious story about a prank he played on his friends. I wish we had recorded him so I could replay these stories to my kids. Please do this with your parents or grandparents, especially if they speak the heritage language! When your children are older, and maybe a bit more committed to being bilingual, they’ll be able to reconnect with their roots simply by listening to these recordings.
Literature teaches so much about culture! Older-dated literature is also often a common connection point between third culture kids and the modern-day culture of the country of their parents.
- Include Peers At Holidays
When you’re thinking about helping a child feel pride while with peers, include the peers in cultural celebrations! Of course, be careful of religious holidays and respect the wishes of peers who would rather observe than participate. As a Christian, the Dragon Boat and Mid-Autumn Festivals are easy holidays for me to involve myself, but I’m a tad more weary about participating in traditionally celebrated Qing Ming or Chinese New Year, (rather than simply observing others celebrate, which I’m fine doing).
- Pop Culture
Utilizing pop culture is one of the easiest ways to instill pride in culture. Thankfully for expats, immigrants and refugees, global connections through social media like Twitter, Facebook and WeChat make accessing pop culture much easier.
Is there something you’re doing that you don’t see on this list? Comment below!