When I first decided to co-host this blog hop, I stopped and thought – how does my family fit into an AMERICAN Heritage Month? We are not Americans. Nor do we live there. However, granted my family’s very rich and diverse background I decided I can come up with a post sharing on how we fit into Asian-Pacific heritage at all and how we deal with cultural identity crisis.
Meet me again: I am originally from Russia. My mother’s family comes from Altai Krai (see the map below).
My father’s family comes from Poland, Belorussia and the area now known as Tomsk Oblast in Russia (see the map below for the latter).
My maternal grandmother has been married to a man who comes from a minority called Shors.
I was born in Buryat Autonomous Region and grew up in Zabaikalie. So most of my life I spent in Asia.
Meet my husband: he grew up in Tanzania. His mother comes from Lebanon and his father is half Persian half Turkish (Azerbaijani) from the North region of Iran. His mother’s family is originally from Iran too, however, their ethnic background is so rich that they even have Mongolian roots! His family members and relatives currently live on almost every continent in the world, they are in multicultural-multiracial marriages and there is no better word to describe my husband’s family but the global citizens. When my husband is asked where he is from, he always replies it is hard to pinpoint the exact place as he was born in one country, which he left at the age of 2 months, grew up in Tanzania, then spent over 10 years in India, now almost 10 years in China. And his family is all over the world!
Meet my children: both my girls and the baby to come are born into our family are currently undergoing an identity crisis. With parents coming from such different backgrounds, being born and living in China, being exposed to at least 3 different languages, my older daughter is confused and can’t give a straight answer where she is from. Now that she is older, she asks questions and tries to make the connections that a brain of 5 year old is capable to make.
As global citizens, we respect our cultural backgrounds. However, we had this unanimous decision made not to stick or impose any cultural traits in our family unless they are applicable to all backgrounds. We raise our children to respect all nations, all cultures, and all peoples of the world. And in reality, when a certain part of their ethnic background is emphasized to point a character trait or a physical feature, I feel very uncomfortable as in my personal opinion it is the diversity of that background that makes them so unique and should give them more chances to adapt easily and fit in anywhere they go.
I want to share some thoughts and ideas on how to deal with your child’s multicultural identity crisis. I am only touching basics here. The cultural identity crisis is a much broader and complicated subject and it is very different for every individual and every family. I am sure we might be dealing with some more issues as our children grow older. But for now here are some things that have been helpful to us:
1. Moral education. Educate your child about equality and diversity. There is nothing better you can do for your child than make him/her truly believe in these 2 great forces that ultimately give us all a chance at peaceful and fair life.
2. Exposure to the world and cultures. It doesn’t mean you have to hop on a plane and rush to another country. You can do it in the comfort of your own home. We have so many resources at our disposal: movies, cartoons, blogs, websites, maps, books – you name them! All these resources not only show us how small the world really is, but also how connected we are!
3. Investigate your own background if possible. It is always interesting to know where your family comes from and despite how diverse it is, we learn to appreciate the history, we also self-educate.
4. Learn other languages. Whether they are related to your own background or not – I found it helpful that my older child can speak Chinese. She can relate to people she spends a lot of time with and she learns more about appreciation of another nation/race. And through that experiences, we, as parents, also learn more about China and its people. If you don’t live abroad like we do, if you don’t have a diverse community, learning a foreign language is still something very useful as it helps you get closer to the world and people living in it.
5. Remind your children about their background, but don’t push it. Quite a few friends of mine whose parents immigrated to other countries went through or still go through the identity crisis. And most of them were quite bitter about having to “learn the ways” of their parents’ cultures. Big part of them felt like they had to get away from it, didn’t want to learn or speak the language of their forefathers and in general just didn’t want to be connected to their background. I personally believe it is nice to know where you come from and be able to relate. But it should be done by parents in a gentle and natural way. When we want to teach our children about their ethnic or spiritual background, we have to be firm yet loving and appreciative of the current background they are being brought up in.
If you have any more tips on how to deal with multicultural identity crisis – I would love to see the links and suggestions!!!
In honor of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, Multicultural Kid Blogs is sponsoring a blog hop, and you are invited! We are celebrating the cultures and peoples of this diverse region by sharing our posts and asking other bloggers to do the same! Our hope is to create a wonderful resource for celebrating Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month with children. Be sure to visit the co-hosts of the blog hop (listed below) and share your own posts at the linky at the bottom!