Teaching Our Kids to Value Their Cultural Heritage

Are you fortunate enough to have a strong cultural heritage you feel connected to?  Although I grew up in Canada, my childhood was immersed in Ukrainian language, culture and tradition. I certainly feel the richer for it, and studies indicate that being bilingual may benefit the brain in a variety of ways.

Are you looking for ways to help your little one enjoy and value their cultural heritage?  Here are some great tips:

Make it Fun

After all; if you enjoy something, you’re a lot more likely to appreciate it!  If you are looking into Saturday or after-school programs for the language you speak at home, ask the school – what and how are the kids learning?

Check to see if you can sit in on a class, or speak to a teacher about how it works.  You can also ask to be connected with a parent of one the students at the school.

After 8 years of driving for an hour between Newmarket and Toronto for ukrainian school, my parents were totally burnt out.  They were sick of hearing us complain about it and dragging us was no fun either.  This isn’t to say there aren’t some great schools out there.  Just do your homework.


Keep the Audience in Mind

Tailor holidays and traditions to the age and/or mindset of your kids.  It’ll make them appreciate it more and has the additional benefit of teaching them a lesson in thoughtfulness.

For example, Passover is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the liberation of Jews from slavery in Egypt.  It can be tough for kids because there is a lot of reading at the table with a book called a Haggadah(although there are some great songs older children will appreciate).  In our family, since all the cousins are 3 and under, we did a condensed reading before eating, started early, and purchased a book that is colourful, and totally attuned to what kids that age will appreciate.  We also did a re-enactment of some of the stories and let the kids act it out.

As the kids get older, we’ll edit the evening accordingly.  Of course, sometimes it is a bit more challenging if you have kids with a wider age range.  Time to get creative!


Use Traditions to Foster Closeness Among Friends and Family

Some of us don’t have our parents around, so organizing something with the help of a sibling or even some family friends can help create great new traditions.  Show your children how your holidays can be a great opportunity to have quality time with loved ones.


Be Realistic, and Go Easy on Yourself

Accept that for many of us, some deterioration in our second language is inevitable.  We live in a beautiful multicultural society here in Canada, and that means that our children will likely be fortunate to have friends of all cultures.  So go easy on yourself and your kids.  If you do your best to follow the tips above, you can be assured that you’ve done your part.  The rest is up to the kids!

What do you think?  Do you have any other ideas on how to help kids value their culture?

Christine is a Co-Founder of Villagemommy.com, a free service that helps moms find mom friends near them with children the same age and more.  Sign up at www.villagemommy.com and check it out on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/villagemommysite.  Christine blogs over at http://blog.villagemommy.com
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