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Teaching your multi-cultural kids about their heritage

Jennifer Chidester

With a little creativity and some insight from older generations, you can embrace and celebrate your rich ethnic history while creating your own family traditions.

Jennifer Chidester and family

My husband and I often joke that our kids are a virtual U.N. Our ethnic backgrounds are a mix of what we lovingly call LatAsian-Caucasian.

Between the two of us, our two boys are Thai, Chinese, Colombian, Irish, English, Scottish, Dutch, Welsh, French and German. As much as we embrace being American, we also want our children to appreciate where their family came from and all of the cultural traditions that come with their diverse heritage.

There are so many fun ways you can celebrate your multi-cultural family and encourage your kids to embrace their blended family.

Engage with your elders

The elders in your family are the perfect place to start when you want to learn more about your culture. If you’re not already sure, invite them to share with you and your children the traditions they celebrated growing up, the food they ate, the games they played and the holidays they celebrated. You can even interview them on video, so you and your children will have a wealth of first-hand insight about your family’s culture that can be shared with future generations.

Cultural festivals and holidays

Jennifer Chidester and family

Attending cultural festivals and celebrating holidays are great ways to learn about and celebrate your culture. We’ve taken our kids to annual Colombian festivals, where they dance to Latin music, eat empanadas and get lessons in their second language with their Spanish-speaking relatives.

They’ve also joined my family at a local Irish festival where they savored traditional potato leek soup, stomped around to Irish music and were captivated by parades of kilted men playing Uilleann bagpipes. We also celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with an annual morning routine of traditional food at our favorite Irish pub and celebrate each Chinese New Year, including gifting our children with traditional red paper envelopes.

Cultural vacations

If you would love to expose your children to their family’s history with a first-hand look, consider a cultural vacation. Gather your family and research the possible destinations. Discuss which landmarks you’d like to visit, like museums and historical sites, or cultural events that you can participate in while you’re there. You can even use and related sites to research cities and neighborhoods where your family grew up, so you can put them on your itinerary. While visiting whichever country you pick is the best part, the research your family will do to plan the vacation will hopefully be half of the fun!

Home immersion

While one of the best ways to immerse your kids in their cultures is to have them visit the countries where your families came from, you can always help them soak in their cultures right from home. One way you can do that is by dedicating days of the week to celebrate each culture, like a weekly Spanish night, where you can create and eat customary foods, watch movies, sing traditional songs and speak only Spanish.

Image credit: Jennifer Chidester

More learning about culture

Host an exchange student: Bringing another culture home
How to expose your kids to different cultures
Exposing kids to their cultural roots

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