“I’m going to China, where are you going, Grammie?” Ayo asked last week as if nothing were. I didn’t think much of it at the time but it really marked his paternal grandmother that a three year old would casually ask what country she was going to. For this little kid who has been lucky enough to have been on many, many flights in his short life, maybe it’s as simple as asking what you might be doing this weekend or where you might be going to by car.
This got me thinking about how to raise kids who get this huge gift of travel and world exposure. As these little world citizens grow up, how can we encourage and foster in them awareness, gratitude and humility as we travel?
A friend recently reminded me, in many ways, kids can absolutely be entitled whether they find themselves in a fully monocultural setting or in a more cross-cultural one – as kids of expatriates or highly-mobile parents for example. Therefore, in many ways, I am pondering about the dynamics of entitlement in general. Still, for me personally, it has really been the nature of our travels that first triggered this discussion. Please let me clarify that we are not experts with non-entitled children giving other families tips we have mastered. Oh no, no, no. Rather here are my five top ideas in our own struggle on how to raise humble, non-entitled, traveling children…
1. Engage in local life. This week, we are in China for a week of vacation and then work. It is honestly so much easier to think of filling our schedule with things to see and places to go for our own enjoyment and benefit. On this trip, we of course took our children to some fun places and there is nothing wrong with that. But how much more value do kids get from learning about different ways of doing life or about poverty (and wealth!) around them. Force yourself to find beauty in the simple and the free rather than just in paid experiences. This creates so much more awareness than just ‘hitting’ all the sights.
2. Teach your kids to give when you travel. Bring hostess gifts and if possible, have your children choose and give the gifts. How especially impactful is it for kids to give little gifts to other children. If they picked the gift out, they might have wanted that toy or that game themselves, but yet they are learning in that moment the beauty that is in giving instead of just receiving.
3. Model humility and gratitude yourself. This one seems pretty straight-forward but how often do we forget about side comments we adults might make about this cultural ‘dysfunction’ or that different way of life? In somewhat chaotic travel environments like in South East Asia, where we ourselves have some remaining grudges from our stint of living here, we constantly have to realign ourselves and our thoughts. We long for our children to be open-minded, flexible, certainly not pompous and superior about cultural differences. So we owe it to them to work on humility ourselves.
4. Try to be consistent, practicing the same discipline as at home. I find that this is such a hard one when on the road. No matter where you travel to, you are asking so much of your kids by flip-flopping timezones, or skipping naps, or going to bed hours after their normal bedtime, or being fed strange foods they might not like as much (why can’t you just eat lotus root and frog parts, kid!). Of course we show them grace and understanding for off behavior because we dragged them into this. Still, you might feel like everyone is watching the foreign kid have a meltdown and you can’t believe yourself but you just long to placate them with STUFF. Just buy them the toy they are screaming for, darn it! Yet, by creating a sense of normalcy and consistency in parenting, we believe we are actively working against a sense of entitlement. No matter where we are, our kids can be taught to be thankful, to be patient, to share.
5. Never ever let them lose the wonder and joy of travel. Get excited yourself, and then enjoy the thrill of getting excited with them. Make each moment special. Show them where you are going on a map or photos on the internet. Talk to them about the amazing gift that it is to see new places like this. Our family has been immensely blessed with this unique set-up. My husband earns enough free air miles so that we haven’t had to pay for Trans-Atlantic flights for our family in the past five years! I fully realize that this is not the normal way people live life and I want my children to grasp that as well.
Hey parents, well-traveled adults, Third Culture Kids, Adult Third Culture Kids, what is your best piece of advice for raising humble world travelers who don’t take their experiences for granted?
In these Series, 26 bloggers within the Multicultural Kid Blogs get together to share ideas and tips on raising global citizens. Follow us from June 1st to June 26th as we share one letter of the alphabet each day, with an idea associated with it over at the A-Z of Raising Global Citizens page!