One thing I’m always struggling to instill in my child is a sense of family and tradition. Whatever culture or tradition it might be, typically for those of us who are first generation immigrants this is very agonising as we want them to experience and maintain a sense of our former “home” and what makes us unique which is our culture. But I found this to be the case with everyone at different levels of priority, still the intent is there by the parents.
Of course there are many issues (and discussions) on why parent want to hang on to archaic traditions which they usually see with rose-coloured glasses. Especially with the knowledge that they resisted those same traditions as kids or at least where indifferent, as new ideas and cultural fusions happen within the growing process. Still, having a unique sense of identity and belonging as very healthy even if indirectly, and a sense of a larger community which we are quickly loosing. No longer are we a community by neighbourhood (chatting with our neighbours), a church, temple or a mosque, which we visit less frequently than we did with our parents, or even school (most don’t have time to be in the PTA or volunteer).
A few things I try to do with my son to encourage a sense of tradition are met with varying degrees of success.
- I make sure he comes on family visits no matter what – even if there are no kids his age, he brings a book or a board game (which he can play with whoever is there) but no video games or cell games. He sits and hears conversations, even if he doesn’t contribute, he may find it excruciating, but over the longer term this becomes a habit and instills in him some basic principles. It’s like those nagging things that you hate as a kid but the voices stay in your mind as you get older. They will see there is some humour in the family, some respect and a try some food (which they may despise), but things will be familiar for them and there is a sense of consistency in their lives. This doesn’t have to be choreographed or overly planned family gatherings and dinners in houses, they can be picnics, impromptu coffee breaks with a few people, going out together to theme parks or malls even. Just to keep that link. It also forces us to maintain those relationships and motivates us to avoid the “I’m too tired or busy” excuses.
- Make traditions fun, this is especially hard for those of us who don’t traditionally celebrate Christmas for religious reasons (we actually celebrate it for the commercial reasons). So making traditional or certain religious celebrations fun is key – think like a child. Even if this means putting a twist on old traditions, or adding new things to traditional celebrations to make it more palatable to our attention intolerant kids in the age of the internet and Netflix. For example, in our celebration of Eid, parent picked our clothes (I let my own kids pick whatever shirt they want, as ugly as I think it would be – but a cheap one), we got money as gifts in envelopes (we put money in an envelope and inside a goody bag with small treats and cheap dollar store mini toys), or having the traditional food along with newer traditions such as frosted cupcakes with a small “Eid” flag on them to make it fun. This can apply to any traditional celebration or even. The idea is to mix some new if the old is to stale to take in (spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down).
- Think up of activities that bring up the past, whether you print old pictures (and some new) and have them scrap book with you. Activities with their cousins and families to do (ie. In Christmas we got a gingerbread house, instead of us decorating it with my son we got my brother, his wife and my niece to get creative with him). This establishes other bonds with the family and opens them up to a bigger sense of community. I get my brother to play switch with him (which is hard for me since I want to play too), cook with my mom, go shopping with my mom-in law, got out to a restaurant with my brother-in-law and his family; even to go to a playground while his grandpa only watches. Just to maintain that connection, give room for others in the family (not just kids) to share some bonding with your kids, and step back a little.
Any other ideas, I’m curious to know as this is a constant challenge for me but a rewarding one I think.