Saturday, 23 March 2013

Expat Parenting: Sharing Culture and Traditions

How much of my British past should I share with my children?
Photo Credit: Gary Raven
When we raise our children in a country other than the one we were born in is it a good idea to share our past with them? Should they know what it was like to grow up in their mother's birth country? Should they speak their father's language if it is of no relevance to the country they are growing up in? And if we want to share our childhood culture and home land traditions with our offspring how do we go about doing that?

I've been thinking a lot lately about creating a treasure trove of memories for my children (in the words of Gretchin Ruben) and creating traditions that we can keep year after year. It was something triggered by Christmas last year and something that sits deep with me as a mother.

When I became a mother I found myself looking back a lot. What could I remember about my own childhood in England? What was Christmas like for me when I was young? When my eldest started school I cast my mind back to my school days and pondered how different his years in school will be to mine.

I started thinking about the fact that my three boys will be bilingual at such a young age - something I had to work hard at and never really achieved until I moved to the Netherlands. Their childhoods will be so different to mine, not just because they are a different generation, but because they were born and are being raised in a different country than I was. It makes for interesting parenting because I do want to share what it was like for me growing up in England. I want them to be able to connect to the family that is still in England (and Wales of course.....) and I want them to appreciate and notice the differences when we go back to England for holidays and visits.

But just how easy is it to share the culture and traditions of a country you were born in but which means little to your own children?

To find out, I have spoken to some expat mothers about sharing their past and the culture and traditions of their birth countries with their children. I asked them which tools they use to share information, whether they think it's important to even try and show their kids what their home country is and was like and about the challenges they face sharing the best of their life in their birth country. For the next couple of weeks you can read their experiences and share your own.

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