As the holidays approach, my wife and I have been talking about how to help Miles begin to navigate the cultural differences of the season. Living in Chicago affords us the opportunity to expose him firsthand to other cultures in a way that wouldn’t happen in a monochromatic city, and we want to take full advantage.
Kids tend to be notorious about pointing out truths in a way that makes everyone in the room (especially their parents) uncomfortable. As Miles’s language skills develop, he’s like a time bomb of embarrassment waiting to go off.
Child-sized honesty is, after all, born out of genuine curiosity, but kids don’t have the necessary relational filters to know how to ask appropriate questions. When they ask, “Why does she have to dress in all black and cover her face?” or “Why do they have to always wear those hats?”, they are only seeking information about cultures different from their own.
As Miles’s understanding of relational filters grows, we want to encourage him to explore his childlike curiosity of other cultures. We want Miles to understand and appreciate other traditions, and I think that starts by fully appreciating his own. So far we’ve been very intentional about what traditions from our own families of origin we’ve decided to continue, so as Miles grows, he can learn about each of them. Both as a religious and a cultural tradition, Christmas is rich in symbolism, and we want Miles to appreciate it as his heritage.
From that place, coupled with an instilled sense of respect for other traditions, he should be better equipped to handle the kinds of intercultural conversations that are inevitable around this time of year. This will lead to healthier relationships with his friends, coworkers, and his own background.
Of course, how to actually do that is where it gets difficult. Luckily we expect Miles to go to a school that has a very diverse student body, so that should help him gain exposure to plenty of different ways to celebrate the holiday season. Hopefully there will be opportunities to invite his fellow students over to our place to witness how we celebrate Christmas, and vice versa.
Beyond that, I’d love to take Miles to different places of worship around the city and show him the diversity of experiences within just one city. It’s one thing to learn about them in books; they’re much more intriguing to experience firsthand. I’ve been fortunate enough to do that myself on more than one occasion.
I’d love to hear some ways that you’ve successfully exposed your kids to different holiday traditions. How do you instill a sense of appreciation for your cultural heritage in your kids? Do you find it difficult to navigate cultural conversations with your kids around the holiday season?