Raising an Intercultural Child

Korean 1 year birthday

SJ wearing traditional Korean hanbok, 1st birthday, with Mochi cat (age 5/6)

This is not a news flash.  We all come from someplace else, even if a few generations removed.  Many of us partner with someone from a different background.  We are all a bunch of mixed up kids.

My Intercultural Upbringing

I was raised American.  Brought up by Asian parents.  It was a normal existence of living in between customs and cultures.  Recognizing our physical differences among our predominantly Caucasian counterparts but wearing the same clothes and carrying the same lunchboxes.  Eating kimchi and rice with hot dogs and Twinkies.  I was a lucky and happy kid.  For the most part I “fit in”.

Now I regret that my parents didn’t raise me more Asian.  I know they do too. Only English was spoken in the house and many traditional holidays and customs were never really passed on.  I realize they were just doing the best they could. Parenting is hard enough.  Why add intercultural 101 to the list of potty training, riding a bike and learning how to read?

Changing Times

Our political and cultural landscape has changed since the ‘70s.  Those of us raised by immigrants are no longer preoccupied with  “do I fit in?  do I belong?” just as our parents may have. The questions have shifted from identity to responsibility – “what does it mean to be American?  How do we intertwine our ethnic heritage into our American life today?  Why?  Who cares?”

Acknowledge and Create Awareness

I think about these questions more now that I have a daughter of my own.  Even during pregnancy, I was determined to raise her with an intercultural awareness and appreciation of her diversity.  I want to point out the differences between dad, “umma,” friends and even strangers.  We look different for a reason.  Some of us are yellow, brown, white, black, red.  The world is filled with color, my girl.

There is a lot of good material out there on raising intercultural children.  Global competence, foreign language, music, how traveling impacts children, and the value of being a global citizen and its significance on one’s future are all topics worth investigating.  We need to educate ourselves and pass it on.  Of course, nothing teaches better than living it.  And in order to live it, we have to believe in it and want it for ourselves.

Talk Diversity. Walk Diversity.

Raising intercultural children starts with a conversation.  Ask questions and find the answers together.  Foster curiosity.  Lead by example.  Celebrate an ethnic holiday together, integrate a unique custom from your own heritage, invite someone from a different background over for a multicultural potluck, dance to foreign music, get out a map and show them how vast our world is.  We have an opportunity and privilege to teach diversity and respect.  If we instill a core intercultural understanding within our kids, they will be more equipped to having an open dialogue in the future among their communities, leaders and their own families.

Are you raising intercultural kids?  What are some ways you integrate traditional customs into life today?  Do you promote cultural differences, and if so, how?  Tell me what you think.

If you missed it, here’s how I define my #interculture today.

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