Celebrating Black History Month: 5 Ways to Preserve Cultural Heritage with Children

by Melanie Edwards on February 17, 2014

in Parenting

5 Ways to Preserve Cultural Heritage with Children

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As a family rich in culture and of mixed heritage, we have lots of stories and traditions to share with our children. I absolutely love when our children ask my husband and I to share stories about when we were little or what it was like to live on our respective islands. I appreciate the interest they take in their own heritage and am happy to keep that heritage alive by talking to them about their cultural background. When Walmart shared that as part of their Black History Month celebration they wanted to embrace the beauty and uniqueness of heritage by asking a few Walmart Moms to share what that meant to each of us and our families, I of course, couldn’t have been happier.

We preserve our family and cultural heritage in many ways and through many traditions. I’ve shared plenty of holiday traditions and traditional recipes my husband and I both grew up eating with you, plus we spend a lot of time together as a family, which sometimes is the best way to learn about customs. Beyond that we do what we can to hold on to what we love about our individual cultures and pass that along to our children, while respecting the fact that they are growing up in a new culture of their own, something we need to embrace as well. With that, here are a few things we do to help us preserve our family and cultural heritage.

5 Ways to Preserve Cultural Heritage with Children

  1. Share stories: Storytelling is sometimes the best way to help children learn about their families, their rich heritage, and their cultural background. Telling stories and listening to stories of the past can be very powerful and children love to hear stories of when you were little, when their grandparents were little, and so forth. It’s amazing to see their little faces light up with joy and be transported to the time and place you’re telling them about. Tell them all about when and where you grew up and if possible, let much older relatives do the same.
  2. Talk to relatives: Regardless of whether these relatives are sharing stories of the past or not, the mere fact that older relatives are spending time with your children will help with preserving heritage. There’s no denying that the older generation acts, talks, and in general, carry themselves in a different manner. Your children will likely learn a lot without even knowing they’re learning anything simply by spending a bit of time with their older relatives.
  3. Preserve and look at photographs: It’s not enough to save photographs and then put them away. You need to actually bring out those photo albums every once in a while and go through them with your children so they can see those embarrassing photos of you and photos of their grandparents when young. I like to go through the photo albums my mother has at her house and any photos up at my mother-in-law’s house when we visit, sit down with the kids, show them the pictures and ask questions of who the people are that I don’t recognize. Not only do I learn more about extended family, but the kids learn along with me of great-great grandparents, uncles, etc.
  4. Food: Traditional dishes and recipes are probably one of the easiest and more fun ways to preserve your heritage! Cooking food you grew up eating that is passed down from generation to generation is a wonderful way for children to learn more about their heritage, plus it’s a delicious way at that! In addition to cooking Puerto Rican food that I grew up eating, I have begun to try to learn how to cook more of my husband’s traditional food from Trinidad as well, in an effort to incorporate the other half of my children’s heritage.
  5. Create a family tree and trace your heritage: Genealogy is something that has been an interest of mine since I was younger and continues to be a hobby of mine, though I don’t get a chance to work on it these days as I used to. But, you can learn a lot about your family lineage and heritage from tracing your roots! If you have older children, they could certainly become involved and help in the effort of researching your family history, talking to relatives, looking up information online, and learning more about your family’s heritage.

Maintaining cultural heritage alive is a daily celebration in our house, but it doesn’t feel like a chore or something that we have to actively work at doing. It is truthfully second nature in our household because we live and breathe it every day through food, music, storytelling, and the way we talk (I speak Spanish with my family and as much as I can to our kids, plus my husband uses Trinidadian dialect and slang with his family that the kids also hear). Our children are lucky to have older relatives in their lives still from both my husband and my side of the family to talk to and spend time with periodically. Preserving our cultural and family heritage is important to us and so far, it seems to be important to our children as well because they are often asking us questions about the past and our family relatives. And that’s a beautiful thing.

How do you preserve the beauty of your heritage?

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All photos © Melanie Edwards/modernmami™

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