“Mamma, can I belong to more than one country?” my 6 year old asked as he jumped into the car as I picked him up from school.
With so many of us raising kids outside of our home country, possibly with partners from a different culture but most definitely with a strong influence of different environment cultures, these thoughts and questions pop up. They really do. And parents are often taken aback at how early they come up.
We have been talking about belonging and nationality since preschool. But this conversation keeps coming up in different ways! At the age of 3, Neil would very proudly declare that he is from India, Singapore and South Africa. I was raised in India and my husband in South Africa and our son Neil is born and being raised in Singapore. It is complicated for most adults to talk about their cross cultural identity, so it must be quite something for little minds to grasp the concept.
But surprisingly, the more we spoke about it, the earlier we spoke about it - the easier it got.
So the busy bees and experts @indigrowkids put together 4 super useful tips for you.
A FIRST CONVERSATION ABOUT BELONGING TO MORE THAN ONE CULTURE
1. "You are a mix of three cultures, and that's something to be proud of. You get to learn about three different ways of life, and you can share that with your friends."
Start by acknowledging all their cultural influences. We are all a product of every culture we interact with, not just the ones we are born into or live in.
2. “You are Indian, South African and Singaporean.” Avoid using words like half Indian-half American. It will make your little one feel less than whole. Instead say, “You are Indian and American.” Words have power.
3. “You are like a tree with three roots. One root is Indian, one root is Singaporean and one root is South African. As you grow, you can keep adding more roots if you want.” When talking to young children about complex concepts, it is important to use simple language that they can understand. Talking about a tree with roots helps them visualize it better.
4. “How do you think belonging to different cultures helps you?” Talk to your little ones about the benefits of belonging to different cultures. Sometimes, it can be a bit hard to be different from your friends. And they need positive reminders of why it’s a good thing.
PLAY THE PIZZA IDENTITY GAME:
A piece of paper | Markers |A variety of small objects that represent different aspects of their identity|
(In our case, we used little souvenirs from Singapore, South African animals and chillies for Indian spice)
1. Draw a pizza on a piece of paper.
2. Label the different slices of the pizza with different aspects of identity, such as Singaporean, South African, Indian
3. Gather a variety of small objects that represent the different aspects of their identity.
4. Have your child place the objects on the pizza slices that represent the aspects of identity that they identify with.
5. Talk to your child about the objects that they have placed on the pizza. Ask them why they chose those objects and what they represent to them.
6. Once your child has finished placing the objects on the pizza, talk to them about their identity. Ask them what makes them unique and special.
This game is a great way to help children to learn about their own identity and the identities of others. We also did it for all the family members and talked about the similarities and differences in our identities. For example, I added a London red bus to my identity pizza as I had lived in London for many years.
TEACH THEM THIS CUTE POEM
“Many worlds dance inside of me,
A treasure I open for all to see
Belonging to all, I find my place,
Celebrating my cultures with love and grace”
THINK ABOUT THIS: NOTE TO SELF
- Is my child learning what is important about my culture from me? Have I thought about what cultural values (not just the yummy food, religion and language) I want to pass on?
- Similarly, have we discussed what is important to my spouse/partner about his culture? How are we integrating it into our family life?
- How do I feel about my child’s cultural influences being different from mine - both in type of influence as well as intensity? He will never feel the same about India as I do (and that’s ok)…
Hope you find this useful! Neil also asked me "Can I belong to India even if I don't live there?" - Here is a video!
Explore our books and games to build identity and spark conversations about topics like this.
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Busy bees @indigrowkids