Is your child confident enough to be Something Else? Do they know they are different and that it is okay to be their happy colour and unique self? I am joining Varya from Creative World of Varya to talk about the ABCs of Raising Multicultural Kids.
I chose this letter because growing up as an expat and now growing my own children in multicultural environment has taught me how difficult yet important it is to help children accept their uniqueness. How do you encourage your child to be confident in being who he is? How do you tell them that colour doesn’t matter… and to talk their language even when nobody is listening. How do you teach a child to understand that it is okay to be the odd one out?
Although I grew up as an expat myself, all the children at my school were like me. We had similar backgrounds and we looked like each other. It wasn’t until I was out of high school that I had experience with being ‘different’. Through college, I was the odd one out. Muslim, hijabi, different colour, foreign accent and a different attitude. I was teased, harassed even but I had a strong circle of friends, teachers and family around to support me. Fast forward to now, when we had kids, my husband and I decided we would send our children to a mixed culture school from the beginning so that they grow up accepting different cultures and diversities. I remember the first time my son came home from school to remark that his best friend was from a different country. It hadn’t occurred to him till they had celebrated International day that his friends were unlike him. Since they all spoke English or Arabic and they were all struggling with language skills, they looked all alike to him.
Kindergarten passed and we moved to grade school. It was then that my son started talking about who spoke his language in his class or on his bus. The boys had grown up and learnt to differentiate and distinguish. They were making groups among themselves too. Although they were all friendly with each other but they all noticed what they had in common. It wasn’t that my son didn’t have friends but he didn’t like that suddenly his best friend was more interested in having lunch with kids who spoke his language. My son would often ask for what Hasan liked for lunch. He started speaking more and more Arabic and was irritated to talk about anything that was against him.
Then, he met his new friend. They weren’t from the same country but they were both one of a kind and that bonded them. We were lucky that his new friend was more mature than my son. He would share my son’s burger for his Kabab. They both loved fruit juices and didn’t like the same coloured jelly candy. They got along.
This past year, I have been working on growing my children’s confidence more and more. We have read books that talk about accepting differences; we have played games that help them see how fun it is to be the odd one out and I have shown them movies and videos to make them see that the whole world is different. Over and over, I have found myself telling them that it is okay to be different. My husband and I have often talked about how we could help our tots become more confident too. We have found that the best way is to take the child’s cue. Children grow their confidence by exercising their right. When they are let to do as they will (within limits and safety), they blossom to develop their own character. Simple things like letting your child dress himself as he wills (in spite of the 90 degree outside!) tells your child that ‘he can’. When my child back talks, there is a part of me that rejoices that he expressed his opinion… then there is the mom in me. Yes, a continuous struggle but have you thought it about how much confidence he feels when he has told an adult what he thinks is right?
Recently, we read a book that all three of my children loved. It is exactly what I wanted my kids to learn. The story is so much fun because the main characters in the story are little monsters. What kid doesn’t love monsters! My son related to it to the dot!
The book that I am talking about is called Something Else.
It is a story about a little monster called Something else who tries to blend into his environment. The animals push him away because he looks silly trying to be like them. Until one day, Something comes around. The little guy although is confused and doesn’t like his looks, he suddenly feels empathy towards him. They bond and then they have fun. The understand how to be themselves and enjoy it… so much so that they are willing to accept Anyone else who comes around.
Isn’t that a beautiful story?
There you have it: Y is for You. Growing Children who are confident enough to be Something Else. How are you growing your Somethings? Tell me in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!