Remaining True to Yourself in Intercultural Situations
by Nita Talwar
PCI Certified Parent Coach®
Peak Experience Parenting
The world is becoming smaller every day. People are traveling more now then ever before. We are marrying people from cultures other than our own. We are raising our children in cultures unfamiliar to ourselves. How does one raise children in an authentic way when faced with so many differing values and cultures?
Having lived in the United States, the Netherlands, and India and observing my children being influenced by the culture around them, I learned very quickly that it is easy to lose your way. For example, if you find yourself in a country with relaxed rules about such things as drugs and alcohol, you need to determine what is right for you and your family. Or, when sugar bowls are present at the lunch table in the cafeteria at school and when children are not monitored about how much sugar they take, it is difficult to instill healthier eating standards at home. The message becomes confusing for the child and the parent may end up feeling frustrated. How do you navigate situations similar to this? Working with clients in each of these countries, I found that we all face similar challenges in these type of situations. These challenges also exist if each parent is from a different culture as well.
When in these situations, I remind my clients the importance of appreciating what you liked about the way you grew up. If your spouse is from a different culture, it is important to know what your spouse appreciated about the way he or she grew up. Which of these qualities would you like to pass on to your own children? How can you weave these values into your current situation?
In addition, it is important to assess your mental, spiritual, and physical state of being. Do you feel in balance? Do you feel your reserves are full? If not, what will it take to make you feel more in balance or more able to handle what comes your way?
A few things that may help you in such situations include:
- The power of pause: Try pausing before taking action and asking yourself is this in line with my values?
- Reframe: Try re-framing the situation to determine what you or your children can learn from it. You have found yourself living in a culture or with a partner that is different from your own for a reason.
- Address the concern: Try not to ignore your concern or the concern of your child. Try addressing it by talking about it and opening the lines of communication.
- Set boundaries: Try to be consistent in setting boundaries that are in line with your values.
- Be gentle with yourself: You are navigating a new landscape and need to be gentle with yourself during the process. Try and take some 'me' time to recharge.
- Know the benefits of mastering the art of transition and intercultural relations and remind your self of these when times seem tough. Some of these benefits may include:
- You have opened yourself up to travel opportunities.
- You develop a worldwide network of friends.
- You are increasing your awareness of how other people live.
- You are learning about different cultures.
- You learn that people from different cultures do the same thing in different ways so there is no so-called 'right' way to do things. What is right for you and your family may not be right for others and vice versa.
- You connect more deeply with your family members going through the intercultural transition with you.
- You may have the opportunity to learn a different language.
- You may have the opportunity to give back to the community you are currently residing.
Having gone through many cultural transitions myself, I remind myself that through these experiences I have deepened my value for race, culture, and lifestyle diversity. I know that my children have developed life skills, confidence, and appreciation for all cultures they may come across in their home country or abroad.
Nita Talwar is currently transitioning back to the United States from Asia and can be contacted at NVTalwar@hotmail.com.