There are many challenges while staying abroad, miles away from your family. And when you move with your children, it becomes even more challenging. Apart from raising them on your own and imbibing good values, retaining your culture and keeping the kids connected to their roots is one of the biggest challenges every parent faces. I am no different. Despite staying outside my country land, I want my kids to know and learn about Indian culture, traditions, festivals, and values.
I am absolutely OK if they follow the local culture of the country we reside in. It is up to them what they choose when they grow up but at this stage when they are little, I wish to expose them to the same values and traditions I was raised with. I can definitely not provide them with the same atmosphere due to the huge cultural difference but I still can keep them connected to their roots.
Here are a few ways, I try to teach them about our culture and bring them closer to it:
Festivals are a great way to educate children about their country and traditions. We try to celebrate all the festivals here, dress up in ethnic Indian attire, and include them in planning and executing the same. As M&M are 4.5 years old now, they happily come forward. Whether it is Durga Puja during Navratri or playing colors on Holi, making rangoli, and lighting diyas on Diwali or molding Ganpati idol on Ganesh Chaturthi, we try maximum involvement of both of them. They not only make merry but also develop a sense of pride and responsibility while doing the little chores with us.
We brief them on the significance of these festivals in the form of stories. No matter how little they understand or absorb at this age but they start learning about the fests. They would not feel alienated whenever we plan to return to India. Through festivals, they learn the importance of togetherness as well. They celebrate local Polish carnivals too in school and I am very much comfortable with it, through them we are picking up too. It’s two-way learning.
I stay abroad and my kids speak in Hindi. YES, they do and I am not at all ashamed of the fact. In fact, we encourage them to converse in Hindi more often when at home and we provide an environment to practice it. Half of their time goes into the school where they speak Polish. If we don’t speak in Hindi with them at home, they would never pick it. Our both sets of parents and families speak in Hindi and I don’t want my kids to get disconnected with their families because of the language barrier.
Learning different languages is an added advantage and it broadens one’s reach but we should never be ashamed of communicating in our local language. For me, it smells of our roots.
When it comes to eating habits, we are total desi. I love to try different cuisines but for day-to-day survival, I need my humble dal chawal. And I think food is one of the easiest and enjoyable ways to stay connected to your country. Cooking a variety of Indian delicacies and a few special ones on the festivals not only satiates your cravings but also the children discover the taste. Every country has some specific foods associated with it. Involving kids in cooking and then savoring those dishes is a great way to bond them with their culture.
Participating in cultural events:
Many countries have an Indian community that celebrates every festival with pompous and joy. As you are far away from your family, attending such cultural events is a fantastic opportunity not only to celebrate in a community but also to connect with fellow expats. Kids learn very quickly by watching the shows, drama, music, or dance. You can even encourage them to participate and perform in such events.
Literature, TV shows, Books:
Introducing the books related to your culture is a great way to bridge the gap between them and their roots. There are various local language and mythological TV shows, folk storybooks that can help them understand the culture and history more closely.
Last but not least, the easiest and the most trusted way to assimilate your culture and keeping kids connected to their roots is by staying in touch with your family and friends back home. Especially the grandparents have endless stories to share with the little ones and it is an excellent exposure for your children to develop an interest in your culture as well as bond with the family.
So, these were a few ways of keeping kids connected to their roots while staying abroad. Do let me know if you have any addons to it.
Until next time!