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How to stay connected to Indian roots while living abroad

Introduction

Culture is a way of coping with the world by defining it in detail.” - Malcolm Bradbury.
Indian girl
Culture is a way of coping with the world

Families who stay abroad always find it challenging to stay connected to their Indian roots. There is a constant fear of being cut off from home, tradition, and culture. This fear stems from the feeling that children will not grow up in the way their parents did, being exposed to a very different environment. Therefore, it is not surprising that parents get apprehensive about children living abroad, afraid that they may go astray or may imbibe a culture that is not their own. The worry is not the new culture but the fact that it may go against traditional values and ideologies. Indian parents do find it challenging and go out of their way to ensure that their children stay connected to their roots.


Why should children be exposed to cultural influences?

“Every man’s ability may be strengthened or increased by culture” - John Abbot.

Culture not only influences child development but gives children a sense of who they are. More importantly, it is known to have a significant impact on the way children develop linguistically, socially, physically, and emotionally. So, it is important for children to be exposed to customs and beliefs around language, artistic expression, food, and religion. Learning can be hindered when a child is exposed to an environment that is in contrast with its own cultural differences. Therefore it is important that at the school level, educators foster diversity and help build bridges towards cultural understanding so that each child feels valued and accepted. All stakeholders in education understand that culture is a powerful indicator of a child’s future well-being and the unique impact it has on development and growth. That is why parents may find it particularly challenging when they live abroad to imbibe cultural values in children. Here are a few ways parents can imbibe culture in children and keep them connected to their roots.

Engage children in a regional language or the mother tongue

Although it’s good to imbibe the culture of the country of residence or maybe even learn a language or two, it always helps for children to learn their mother tongue. It has, since ages, been considered as one of the primary aspects of culture. The key is to be consistent enough so that the child progresses to some fluency of the language. It does not matter if the child has an accent, what’s important is to keep practicing so that when they are back home, they can converse with their friends and family.

''If you talk to a man in a language he understands it goes to his head, if you talk to him in his language it goes to his heart''

Celebrate every traditional festival

Festivals are a fun way to introduce Indian values, customs, rituals and traditions. It is also a good opportunity to introduce the historical significance of each festival through the celebrations. Festivals also serve as a platform to introduce traditional music and dance to children. It would be a good idea to also introduce children to religious prayers and encourage them to visit temples, gurudwaras or mosques. This will probably expose them to their own community enabling them to network.

"The greatness of culture can be found in its festival."

Enroll them in classes

When helplessness sets in and consistency is lost, then parents can resort to enrolling kids in classes that will keep them close to their roots. There are many online classes that offer activities in Indian music, dance and other art forms. It’s a great way to pick up a skill as well. Parents can also resort to this option when they want to complement the efforts at the home front. A leading Indian EdTech, Learner Circle, which is based in Singapore, offers a diverse range of online courses for children who want to pursue their passion and stay connected with the Indian culture. Learner Circle offers an interesting curriculum in classical music, Bollywood dance, chess, quizzing, coding and a lot more.


Food

food picture
Food is a way of bringing culture into the home

Food is a great way to stay connected to culture and tradition. Parents who regularly cook a variety of traditional delicacies will find it easier to introduce various historical anecdotes or stories through food. It can also be a way to introduce or condition children towards certain festivals. Another big advantage to offering a variety of food types to children is that it tingles their different taste buds which can activate different parts of the brain.




Connect with the Indian diaspora through the local communities

It is important for families abroad to do some research and reach out to the important local Indian communities abroad. This could serve as an important platform for children to participate in cultural events. Most countries have a local Indian Association that offers membership to various communities. These associations also play a big role in fostering and nurturing traditional practices by conducting regular cultural events. Many countries have an Indian community that celebrates every festival with pomp and joy. As you are far away from your family, attending such cultural events is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate in a community. But it also helps connect with fellow expats. Kids learn very quickly by watching the shows, drama, music, or dance. You can even encourage them to participate and perform in such events.


Books, literature and TV shows

Parents can cherry-pick various media to introduce Indian culture and tradition to their children. Books, literature and TV serve as very impactful methods to connect children to their roots and remind them of the place where they belong. It’s also a stress-free method to teach important Indian values, beliefs and rituals. Some parents also resort to the media to help children learn some important prayers or religious verses. Movies work wonderfully to introduce to children the concept of religion, morals and ethics.


Family

The most natural way to stay connected to Indian culture and tradition is to stay connected to family back home. Encouraging regular conversation between children and other members of the family helps to keep the bond of the family alive.

Conclusion

It is essential for parents to remember that children learn, most often, by observing and making associations about their surroundings. When a child is exposed to a positive environment that is conducive to learning then it can favorably influence a child’s development. Any exposure to toxic or stressful situations can negatively impact development in many ways. As we know that a child’s influences at birth are neutral. It is the cultural influences that we offer the child or expose the child to that contributes towards overall growth and development.




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