3 ways Canadian kids won’t forget their cultural heritage
By: Alisa Samuel
Published on: April 18 2023
People who grow up in two or more cultures are called bicultural. Bicultural people have many strengths. They adapt easily to social settings. They have a diverse set of experiences to draw wisdom from when it comes to decision-making. Some do well in school, find good jobs, and build strong families.
Parents who immigrate to Canada with young children, or newcomer parents who give birth in the country, will raise bicultural people. If you’re a parent who grew up in a society different from the one your children are going to grow up in, you might wish to teach them about your culture.
Open parent-child relationships depend on understanding. It’s important that your children know where you come from when you disagree with them. But you must also understand the negative effects biculturalism can possibly have on your children.
Some bicultural children struggle to find their place in the world. They face this challenge when having to merge the sometimes-contradicting traditions and attitudes of the cultures they live in. In questioning how they relate to others with their background, your children might begin to feel stressed and lonely.
To ensure biculturalism is a positive experience for both you and your children, allow them to explore and commit to your cultural beliefs and practices on their own terms. Introduce them to who you are. Then, help them develop stable individual identities of their own.
You’re probably wondering, how?
In a 2013 study, researchers from the University of Sydney examined bicultural identity in young adult immigrant students. They found that connection to more than one culture happens in three ways: 1) language-speaking, 2) country awareness, and 3) family relationships.
The language connection
You can speak to your children in your native language early on in their lives, so they learn to speak it, too. Careful, though. Some toddlers get used to speaking only the language that’s spoken at home. By the time they get to school, the children may not know English. English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) students face isolation from their peers.
So, while nurturing their inherited language skills, try speaking to them in English as well. This will be a good exercise for you if you come from a non-English speaking country. But since you want your children to connect to their cultural heritage through speech, consider language classes for them.
After-school or weekend language classes can be a fun social activity for your children. In a structured classroom setting, they’ll find the opportunity to practice speaking, listening, and engaging with others in your native language. Or, perhaps you’d prefer a tutor who’d be willing to provide your children with one-on-one lessons.
The country connection
As you build a new home in Canada, there are practical things you can do to familiarize your children with the country you come from. Ethnic cooking is one example. Cook dishes using traditional recipes and include your children in the process. They might learn to make the dishes themselves when they get older. Eating traditional food, whether with others or by themselves, will trigger the positive memories that they made with you in the kitchen.
Canada is a country where people from around the globe come to live. Here there are year-round community events that showcase all the different cultures found in Canadian society. The Eventbrite website is a great place to check for events near you. Take your children to festivals, craft workshops, and on walking tours that celebrate your culture.
The family connection
Children are usually immersed in their cultural background when they’re spending time with biological relatives. Since you’re a newcomer, you may not have access to the company of your family as they’re probably back home. Travelling back home isn’t always feasible and can be expensive. Maybe you escaped your homeland and going back for a visit with your children would be dangerous. If this is the case, keep your children connected to your family back home with regular video calls using free apps like Skype and WhatsApp.
Joining a community that shares your beliefs can also offer a family-like environment. Places of worship are excellent sources of community.