5 Benefits of Multicultural Upbringing

5 Benefits of Multicultural Upbringing

When I moved to Canada ten years ago, I believed that in the West, everyone celebrates Christmas. This was until I happily wished my Jewish trainer Merry Christmas and she gave me 'that' look.

Knowledge is LiberatingMy learning: Jewish celebrate Hanukkah, not Christmas.

Second learning: the best way to wish someone from around December 20 up to the onset of the New Year is by saying “happy holidays” and not the Indian counterpart Merry Christmas (we say Merry Christmas to everyone, don’t we?)

Third learning: I wish I knew more about world cultures than I thought I knew.

Multicultural knowledge benefits more than we give it credit for–especially when it comes to children. Knowing about cultures makes us insightful individuals.

I surely want my child to have such insight. Don’t you?

If yes, assure yourself further by knowing the five best ways in which a multicultural upbringing will benefit your child:

1) Appreciation

"I don't think he likes laddoos. Her Ganpati is into plum and raisin cake," said my four-year-old. We were visiting his friend Adele during the recent Ganeshostav holidays and I proposed we carry some prasad for her family.

Amused, I asked him how he knew that and he said that teacher says everyone has different kinds of prasad and all prasads are equally yummy.

Teaching with a multicultural standpoint promotes appreciation and understanding of other cultures, besides one's own. This perspective positively encourages the child's sense of the uniqueness of his/her own culture. The child can then appreciate the unique qualities of other cultures instead of finding them weird.

My son's teacher laid the foundation for cultural appreciation in my child and I’m so thankful for it.

2) Knowledge

"You just use sticks and dance and have fun. Don't you know?"

Seven-year-old Shahaan tells his mom what dandia dance is all about. She’s reading to him from his social studies book and he’s flaunting his knowledge of Indian festivals.

"He knows our Eid well, but I think he should know about all the festivals that he sees around him. A festival is exactly what he calls it—it's fun. There's no harm knowing the good things about the world around us. Knowledge is liberating," explains mom Sana, proudly.

She could not be more correct. An amazing facet of multicultural upbringing is the knowledge-building process. Multicultural schools propound that knowledge is both subjective–one that parents pass on via their own opinionated filters, and objective—one that kids learn through their own logic and interpretation.

Objective knowledge is devoid of inherent prejudices. It's one where the child is given room to reflect on the social and cultural trends within society and formulate his/her own elucidations of reality.

For making room for objective knowledge, Sana’s hit the nail on its head. Have you?

3) Adaptability

"I've made sure that he’s tasted Parsi, Gujrati, Italian, Mexican, North-Indian, South-Indian and even Marwari cuisine,” says Leena, in between mouthfuls of food during our lunch.

She says that it helps that she and her husband are both food freaks but what's really amazing is that they've passed on that love to their six-year-old son.

"Harsh loves trying out food from different cultures since we taught him how, "she explains. She and her husband are trying to make their son a global citizen. "I don't want him to have issues with cultures when he travels around the country or even outside it," she concludes.

I could not agree more. It's so important for our children to be aware of what’s cooking around the world.

Allegorically and quite literally so!

4) Academic compatibility

"I was taught about every culture and its festivals when I was a kid," says my New York-based friend Vaibhav during our online chat. He's an alumnus of the IIT and the University of Columbia. He's the most unbiased and attuned person I know.

"My parents were cool about all my friends and the cultures that they belonged to. In fact, they attended parties for all festivals at our local club–one of the very few families who did,"he adds.

He explains that his parents made sure he grew up without any 'compatibility issues' with anyone belonging to any culture. "When I went to IIT, my class had folks from every religion and culture I could fathom. Everyone had their own hang-ups but it never affected me. I had learnt how to remain neutral and that helped me at IIT and even in New York after that."

He thanks his 'chilled-out' parents for all his academic success.

The more I think about our discussion, the more I agree with his point of view. Had he not had cultural freedom as a child, he would not be as compatible with his fellows and scale the success he does today.

Food for thought, isn’t it?

5) Harmony

"Mamma, what is veg-eeee-tar-tian food?" asked four-year-old Nitisha.

When her mother answered that being vegetarian means eating only vegetables and no meat, she asked “Is my eggy veg-eeee-tarian?"

Multicultural upbringing seems to be the only solution to the diverse problems affecting our society today. Disparity, negligence, violence, and even corruption can be curbed if sensitivity to each other’s cultures is ingrained in our children.

Since a one-way traffic regarding culture has not worked, it’s time we give the multicultural perspective a shot.

A four-year-old understands it, do we?