The Downside of Teaching Cultural Awareness to Your Kids

my worldcultural awareness

When traveling, I believe it's important to immerse yourself as much as possible into the culture. This probably stems from living my 17th year in Argentina as a foreign-exchange student where I shared my first shower with no less than 20 cockroaches, attended public school, and spent weekends at a cattle ranch with my Argentine family as the only English speaker...and loving every minute of it.

So, when we planned our current trip to Central America, I was looking forward to the opportunity to go native, so to speak!

Instead of scheduling a trip where we'd visit amazing water parks (I hear there are some fabulous ones in Guatemala!), we opted to see ruins, attend church in Spanish, visit colonial towns, arrange play dates with local kids who only speak Spanish, and volunteer at orphanages.

Our first stop? Livingston Island, Guatemala (on the Rio Dulce and the Caribbean Sea)—one of the most fabulous scenic trips of my life (by boat, no less). I was excited when a local gal offered to do my hair. Why not get a little further relaxed over lunch, right? Wrong! Have you ever worn corn rows? I'm not going to rule out that I'm pain adverse, but tears don't lie, dude! And those were real tears I shed. But... when in Rome, right? Fortunately, my hair is really short, so the process didn't take too long.

Last night, after my mom had removed all the braids and beads, my 6YO looked at me and said, "So, does this mean you aren't African American anymore, mom?"

If there is one downside of teaching cultural awareness to my kids (and truth be told, I don't think there is one), it's that sometimes my well intentioned plans to help them become aware of and celebrate diverse cultures can be confusing to them. Being "Roman" and doing things "as" the Romans do are not necessarily the same, right?

What do you do to help your kids embrace other cultures?

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An active part of the Mom It Forward team, Jyl primarily writes about parenting, social good, and all things travel related. In a past life, Jyl was an award-winning copywriter and designer of corporate training programs for Fortune 100 companies. Offline, Jyl is married to @TroyPattee; a mom to two teen boys and a beagle named #Hashtag; loves large amounts of cheese, dancing, and traveling; and lives in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Topping her bucket list is the goal to visit 50 countries by the time she's 50.


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