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.


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Promoting Cultural Diversity In The Classroom

Cultural diversity

Cultural diversity

America is increasingly becoming a culturally diverse society with growing Asian, Hispanic and African American population. Although the diversity is growing, the challenges associated with it have not been fully addressed.

In my previous post I discussed one such challenge about answering our children’s queries about their different appearance and developing confidence in them about their cultural heritage. Apart from doing this, we Asian moms should also make efforts to promote cultural diversity in their schools. This will not only make the school environment more productive for our children, but also make our kids more receptive towards different cultures.

Asian moms should take initiatives to promote diversity by giving suggestions to their children’s teachers and school authorities. I have thought of some steps we can recommend to them.

Introducing Multicultural Books As A Part Of Their Curriculum. Children have impressionable minds and the little lessons of truth and kindness taught to them in the form of stories become an important part of their childhood. Multicultural books should be used while teaching these lessons which will familiarize them to the cultural nuances of different people in the world. The characters in these stories influence children’s thinking and their actions and make them more receptive of their peers who look and behave differently from them.

Children doing things together in school

Children of different races doing things together in school

Putting Posters Of Children Of Different Races Doing Things Together In The School.Visual learning plays an important role in children’s learning process. Simple lessons depicted through posters like teaching them to wash hands every time they go to the restroom or sharing things with each other while working on class projects should have children of different races doing things together.

Introducing Multiculturalism Through Geography Lessons. While teaching children about different continents in the world, teachers should emphasize how varied climates and topography contribute to different skin colors and development of diverse races in the world. This will add a scientific approach to their understanding of different people in the world.

Special Classes For Children Interested In Learning Different Cultures And Languages. Introducing multiculturalism in the above mentioned ways will arouse their curiosity to learn more about diverse cultures. This curiosity should be developed and catered by arranging special classes teaching more about different languages and cultures.

Educating Children About Cultural Aspects Of Their Classmates. We Asian Moms should take initiatives to educate our children’s classmates about the food, language, dress, and important festivals associated with our culture. This can be done by showing them short videos or presentations in the form of stories.

Exchange Programs. As children grow up and become more independent exchange programs for students of different countries should also be encouraged. This first-hand experience of varied cultures will make them global citizens with open minds.

What are some other ideas which are being implemented in your child’s school to promote diversity? Do you have more thoughts on how we can promote cultural diversity in our children’s schools? Share them with me.

Photograph 1-Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Photograph 2-Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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How To Talk To Asian Kids About Their Different Appearance?

Last week my daughter told me that her skin color is different from her friends. I was concerned, and this was our topic of discussion every now and then when I picked her up from school. I didn’t know how to handle this. I grew up in an environment where all the people around looked like me and never had this challenge as a part of my childhood.

An Asian kid with an American child in school

An Asian kid with an American child in school

It is not just about appearance, it is also about the food we pack for our children in their lunch boxes, the language we speak, and many other cultural things we do that raise questions as well.

We Asian moms are not the only ones facing these questions. Women of many other races deal with similar problems while raising their kids in the U.S. We cannot change the way our children look, but we do bring some changes in our lifestyle. Celebrating American festivals, eating American food, or watching ‘Super Bowl’ with our kids have become a part of our lives.

What about the things we cannot change? How should we handle their concerns about looking different from their friends? I have some suggestions which will be helpful in making our children confident about the way they look.

Do Not Shy Away From These Conversations. When your children talk to you about their different skin color, listen to them. Do not avoid the situation. Tell them that we may look different from outside but we are all same inside. Assure them that there is nothing wrong in being different. Have these conversations with your children on a regular basis, but do not overdo it.

Talk About Their Issues By Giving Examples. Do not give long philosophical lectures, they will not understand them. Talk to them as issues emerge by giving examples of things around them, so that they can relate and understand. For example, talk about people they know and who can be their role models.

Make Them Feel Good About Themselves. Educate your children about the good things in your culture, things that they can feel proud of. Repeated positive reinforcement about their bodies, their culture and their roots will make them confident. Tell them that what matters most is to be good, by giving examples of little acts of kindness that they can do.

Be Confident Role Models For Them. We Asian moms can bring a huge positive change in the lives of our children by being confident role models for them. Our kids learn a lot from us by watching how we behave in different situations. If we are confident about our appearance, it will automatically effect our children’s perception about their looks.

Educate Them About Different Cultures. Expose your children to different cultures by reading books, taking them to different countries for vacations, watching multicultural shows on television, and interacting with people of different cultures. This will not only educate them about the diversity in the world, but also make them confident about themselves looking different from others.

Do you have more ideas on how to talk to our children about looking different from their friends, let’s discuss them.

Image courtesy of Paul Gooddy / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 


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Asian Moms And Cultural Transmission

We Asian moms in the U.S., have made our choice to live in this country and provide better opportunities to ourselves and our families. Despite of living far away from our home country, we do a lot of things to create our own little world here. We celebrate native festivals, speak our language, wear traditional clothes on special occasions and like to interact with people of our own culture (these common behaviors of Asian moms are discussed in detail in my previous post). Why do we behave in this manner and how is our behavior influencing our children?

The foremost thing that comes to my mind when I deeply analyze our engagement in common cultural practices is that we all miss home, and have common cultural behaviors due to two reasons:

Deeply Ingrained Family Values And Culture. Although we have adjusted in the new cultural set up, our hearts still belong to our home country. We feel that it is our duty as mothers to teach our culture and family values to our children. We make sure that they learn our traditions and values, as there is nothing in their surroundings here in the U.S. that will teach them about our heritage. Our culture is so deeply ingrained in us that we do not realize that certain things we do out of habit are influencing our kids culturally.

Family Bond.

Family bonding, an important cultural value for Asian moms

Family bond, an important cultural value for Asian moms

In addition to this, strong family bond is also an important cultural aspect of our lives and becomes an essential part of our children’s lives as well. We miss our families back home and realize that our kids are missing the love and affection of family and friends we had in our childhood. We try to compensate that part by making frequent visits back home, interacting with our parents and families through technology (Skype, Facetime) and make our children participate in these interactions.

We are influencing our kids by passing on our culture to them on two levels- conscious and unconscious.

Conscious And Unconscious Cultural Transmission.    Many of us are making conscious efforts to educate our children about our culture and values. We teach them our language, read native books to them and educate them about our traditions.

Some of us are not making any conscious efforts, but  cultural transmission is taking place on an unconscious level through our routine actions and behaviors. We cook our native food, speak our language and celebrate our cultural festivals. We do not even realize that all these actions are influencing our children culturally.

We are taking full advantage of the opportunity provided by this country to practice our cultural traditions freely and do the things we used to do back home. In this process we are trying to give the best of both worlds to our kids.

We are always striving to strike a perfect balance between the U.S. culture and our own. And in this effort we are actually influencing our kids culturally in a conscious as well as unconscious manner.

Do you think your day-to-day activities are influencing your children culturally? Share with me the cultural footprints that you are leaving on your children’s lives.