Cultural Dilemmas

Cultural Dilemmas and Issues of Asian Moms in the U.S.


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How To Make Our Children Eat Our Healthy Asian Cuisine?

Do your children like eating  your native food? Many Asian moms will say no. Our children love eating pizzas, burgers and french fries, but not our native cuisine. Most of us cook our native food and have a hard time feeding it to our children.

Veggie dominant asian cuisine

Veggie dominant Asian cuisine

Asian recipes, whether Thai, Chinese, or Indian use lots of vegetables and whole grains, and our children do not eat them. Asian cuisines are considered one of the most healthiest cuisines in the world. How can we convince our kids to make healthy food choices and eat our nutritious veggie dominant native foods. I have some suggestions which will be helpful.

Create A Story Behind The Food. Time and again I talk about the power of stories in my blog posts. Understand what your child likes doing or something he/she aspires to have. Create a story associated with the benefits of the food  you want your child to eat. For example, I created a story to make my daughter eat carrots. I told her that her eyes will become beautiful if she ate them. The funny part is that she ate carrots, and next day she checked her eyes in the mirror and asked me why there were no sparkles in her eyes.

Fusion Of American And Asian Recipes. Don’t be rigid about feeding your native food to them all the time. Mix your native cuisine with the one your child likes to eat. For example, add your native touch to Mac and Cheese, pizza and pasta by adding your native spices and vegetables. It this way your children will develop a taste for your traditional food and spices.

An Indian child using the rolling pin to make bread in the traditional Indian style

An Indian child using the rolling pin to make bread in the traditional Indian style

Involve Children While Cooking Your Native Food. Let your child help you cook food. You can involve them by making them wash vegetables, giving them a blunt plastic knife to cut them, or by making them use a rolling pin and help you make bread in your traditional style. Children will like to eat food they helped cooking. Doing things together also brings you closer as a family. Do not get upset if they create a mess.

Use Examples From The TV Shows Or Cartoons They Like. Our children love to watch their favorite TV shows and cartoons and try to imitate what they do. Use these examples to make them try new food. For example, my daughter loves watching Daniel Tiger on PBS Kids. Daniel Tiger’s mom tells her not to say no to new food before trying it. I have tried this with my daughter giving Daniel Tiger’s example while convincing her to eat my native food. It works most of the time, but when it doesn’t, I never force her. In this way she tries and eats most of my native food.

Add Shapes And Colors To The Food. Children are very visual and they do not like eating something that doesn’t look good. Cut your native food into different shapes, may be a circle, a star, or a triangle. Add colors to them by making a smiley on top of it with ketchup.

Set An Example. It is important to practice what you preach. Children will follow you if you set a good example of eating your native cuisine yourself.

Make eating food an enjoyable experience for kids. We Asian moms always have to blend the two cultures- our native as well as American in whatever we do. We have to practice this approach with food as well so that our children make healthy food choices.

Photo 1: Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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What Festivals Do Asian People Celebrate In The U.S.?

Easter baskets, eggs, bunnies and other goodies have flooded the stores around us. Last week when I went for grocery shopping with my daughter, she started asking questions about these goodies and if she can have them. This event provoked me to write this post about the cultural dichotomy faced by many Asian moms while celebrating festivals in the U.S.

What festivals do we celebrate as Asians living in the U.S.? How do they impact our lives and those of our children? Do our children enjoy celebrating our native festivals and cultural events the same way they enjoy American festivals?

Many of us celebrate Christmas and get gifts for our children. Our children participate in the Independence day parade and also dress up in their favorite costumes for Halloween.

What about the festivals we have grown up celebrating in our childhood? Do our children enjoy celebrating them as well? Some of us will say yes. Many Asian moms keep their tradition alive by celebrating their native festivals and making them an important aspect of their children’s lives as well. There are many places in the U.S. where people of all cultures get together and celebrate  many Asian festivals like the Chinese New year, Diwali, Holi and Vaisakhi.

We Asian moms should take full advantage of the opportunity provided by this country to practice freely our religious and cultural beliefs. Get together, celebrate and enjoy American as well as your native festivals in collaboration with your and your child’s American friends. Educate them about your culture and make our society a place where our children and their peers are more tolerant and respect each others traditions.

Make your child a global citizen who is deeply rooted in his/her Asian culture, educates others about it, and also respects different cultures.


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Promoting Bilingualism/Multiligualism In Children

Many Asian moms in the U.S. complain that their children used to speak their native language before going to school, but once they start school, they talk only in English. The kids understand their language, but do not respond in it. What happens when they start school?

Children have impressionable minds. They see their teachers and classmates talking in English and they want to speak the same language to be accepted in this new environment. They carry this influence at home and start speaking English with their family as well. Some Asian moms try their best and are successful in keeping their children bilingual or multilingual, while others fail in their efforts.

Also, many Asian moms believe in different myths about raising bilingual children. These myths include assumptions such  as bilingualism may cause speech delays, their children may not be able to interact fluently with their friends in school, and the two languages might confuse them. Numerous studies have shown advantages of bilingualism among children which make them smarter than monolingual children.

Are you struggling to teach your child your native language? I have some suggestions which might be useful in making your child learn your language.

Reading Books In Native Language And Narrating Cultural Stories: Children love hearing stories. Read your cultural stories to them in your native language. This will motivate them to listen to the language and think and respond in it. These stories will make your language an important part of their childhood.

Make Children Participate In Cultural Activities: Language is an important part of any culture. Encourage your kids to participate in various activities associated with your culture and religion. This will provide them an opportunity to be in an environment where they can express themselves in your language and learn more about it.

Play Games With Them In Your Native Language: We have grown up playing games which are typical in our culture. Play these games with them using your language. You can also try playing language learning games with them.

Join Groups Of Families Doing Cultural/Religious Things Together: Give an opportunity to your children to learn the language by surrounding them with children speaking and doing things in your native language. Like, I have joined a group of families who get together bi-weekly and do prayers in my native language.

Make Your Children Talk To Their Grandparents In Your Native Language: Talking to grandparents in native language not only provides them an opportunity to practice their language, but also makes the family ties strong.

Be A Role Model For Them By Talking To Them In Your Language: Finally, it is important to practice what you preach. If you want your child to learn your native language, you have to speak it yourself.

Make language learning an enjoyable experience for your children by singing songs and nursery rhymes with them in your language. Do you have more suggestions about how we Asian moms can make our kids learn our language? Share them with me.