Raising Culturally Sensitive Children

If you are going to take your children to places where they will be exposed to different cultures, you need to prepare them. Whenever I run into Americans that are visiting Europe I get excited, but there are certain things that Americans do that break my heart. With a little bit more education on a parent’s part, we could take several steps toward killing cultural arrogance and ignorance. I hope that is a goal you have for your family. It is definitely a priority in our family. I am really open to your opinions on this topic, and I would love to do a follow up article with everyone’s input. Here are just a few things we can teach our kids (and learn ourselves) about how to be more culturally sensitive, especially when we travel.

Raising Culturally Sensitive Children

The Bright Side

There are aspects to every culture that we will see as negative and positive. Instead of constantly pointing out the negative things, encourage your children to look for the positive things that they see and learn in the culture you are visiting. Maybe it’s the culture’s sense of community that impresses you, or their dedication to wearing bright colors. If you lead by example and avoid complaining, your children will notice that. If you tell them not to complain while you are constantly complaining they won’t listen. It’s like any other principle of parenting, if you tell them to do something and then do something else, eventually they will come to resent that rule, even if it is a good one.

New Culinary Adventures

Don’t assume you know anything about the local dishes. Do some research, and prepare to be surprised. Looking at a plate of bright red paprika spiced sausage will not prepare you for how delicious it is. In fact, looks can often be deceiving. Be adventurous, and again, teach your children not to complain publicly about food. That is a good rule anyway, because at some point you will eat with your children outside of your house, and you don’t want them to seem ungrateful. Let me rephrase that, you want to raise them to be grateful, even if they don’t appreciate the way something tastes, smells, or looks. One time at a private dinner where our family were the guests of honor, I looked down and my plate of food was looking back at me, literally. I had been served the face of the lamb that was to be our dinner, and the eye was still in place. In the US, most of us are not connected to how our food gets on our plates. We don’t slaughter our own meat, so we forget that the animals we eat at one point had a face and eye balls. But the face meat on the lamb was delicious. I would eat it again. No I didn’t eat the eye ball, even though some consider that good luck. My kids definitely noticed the eye ball, but apparently our hard work is paying off because not one of them commented about how gross or weird it was to have one on my plate. Is complaining about being given an animal’s entire face on your plate considered rude? Yes, absolutely. Don’t do it.

Teach Them Why

The teaching process is long. We are constantly spending time explaining things to our children, and if you want to raise culturally sensitive children in this angry world, you must also spend time explaining to them how and why. As foreigners living in a place that is not our own culture, we are constantly having conversations about how and why we do things. My younger kids don’t ask questions about these kinds of cultural differences where we live now, but when we are back in the US, they ask questions constantly. My oldest remembers what it is like to live in the US and sometimes she has questions about why we do certain things certain ways in Greece. These conversations are worth having because they not only inform your children, but they shape the kind of adults they will become. If you teach your children to be curious instead of condemning, their whole outlook on life will change. Maybe you don’t like deep fried spider on a stick, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to eat. Maybe you don’t agree that your child will catch a serious cold if they don’t wear industrial boots on the first day of winter, that doesn’t mean that the other person is wrong in their opinions. This whole idea of right and wrong when it comes to culture creates unnecessary division.

A New Normal

Next time you are tempted to turn away in disgust when someone offers you a plate of food that appears strange to you, or they give you advice you have never heard before, stay polite. Don’t roll your eyes or look away in disgust. You wouldn’t want someone responding to you that way, would you? It’s common courtesy that isn’t all common any more.

What do you think? What are some cultural differences that have been difficult for you to address with your children? Is it your goal to raise culturally sensitive children? Why or why not?

Happy travels,

Kristin

Britax “ClickTight” Recall

If you have a ClickTight car seat, you should head on over to this website by Britax to see if your model is being recalled. This voluntary safety recall is due to some ClickTight buttons sticking, and allowing slack in the shoulder harness caused by the child’s movements.

clicktight-wf_v1-3

Happy (and safe) travels,

Kristin

What is Happening In Greece – Guest Post

This was originally posted by my husband on our blog about Greece, http://grace4greece.com. I thought it might shed some light on the situation for all of you out there watching what the news is saying about Greece.

Happy travels,

Kristin

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Slow motion

Right now, Greece has the feel of a slow motion fall from an action movie. Greeks gather groceries like Americans with shopping carts so full, their european sized refrigerators will be overflowing with food. They are also making strategic moves with the limited cash that they have, seeing as most ATMs show, “Temporarily out of service.” As I bought my pills from the local pharmacy today the normal pleasantries from my pharmacist of “good” were broken with an explanation of his situation. He shared how he needs to access change for customers but the banks are closed and are only offering a daily maximum withdrawal of 60€, even though most ATM’s don’t dispense anything but 50€. He told me that he would be fine for a few days, but not for weeks.

greek economic crisis

There is much debate over who is to blame. Can we point to the relentless austerity imposing figures of Germany and the IMF? Perhaps the non-compromising Syriza? Why would they walk away so close to an agreement? Over the last four years we have had a unique vantage point since we have lived in Greece through the midst of these troubles and have seen with our own eyes the pain and frustration that our Greek friends go through. With this upcoming referendum that Prime Minister Tsipras sprung on everyone at 1am on Saturday morning, we have many friends on both sides of the “yes” or “no” vote.

greek economic crisis referendum

On Saturday in the pre-dawn hours I had been awoken by a text from my friend in Kalamata that said, “Go to the ATM and get your money now! SOS.” I quickly googled Greece and found out that Tsipras announced a vote of whether to stay in or out of the Euro. Greece owes an IMF debt repayment on Tuesday of 1.6bn€. Syriza came to power in January 26, on a platform of stopping austerity and bringing “hope” to Greece. Since then he has been negotiating with the IMF to reach a better agreement.

From my perspective it troubles me that there is and has been significant outside influence as to the direction that Greece should take as a nation. Jean-Claude Juncker said four days before the election, “that the commitments which have been made by Greece will be respected by any new Greek government.” (1) Angela Merkel ruled out debt cuts just 6 days after Syriza was elected. (2) “Germany and the IMF are making an example out of Greece so as to warn Spain, Portugal, and Italy not to revolt,” one of my friends told me yesterday. This was not the first time I had heard this opinion from a struggling, hard-working, Greek national. As Syriza has gained more and more popularity over the past few years a common thread has emerged. Every time popular media or the IMF speak of Syriza they mention “Far left” in the same breath. It is quite interesting considering that Merkel and the IMF, with their relentless austerity and measures, could easily be considered “far right.” I suppose what troubles me most is the underhanded (sometimes not so much) way in which they treat the Greek people as a whole: as though they were some lazy society that wants hand outs for all the problems they have caused themselves.

greek economic crisis life

Let us take a look at what some facts have to say about that forgone conclusion. Citing the OECD annual work hours data, Greece worked 2nd overall with 2,037 hours. To give a comparison the U.S. is 1,788 and Germany is 1,388. (3) Greeks are actually very hard workers and do anything they can to find a job and keep it despite an unemployment rate of 52% for 15-24 years old, 34.5% for 24-34 years old, and 26% for 15 years and over (4). In addition to their hard working nature, they are also very generous. Greek people are ingenious and will find cheap solutions to a problem rather than trying to up-sell you. There have been many times I taken my car to the local mechanic where he quickly runs a diagnostic, fixes a small wiring problem, and sends me on my way without charging a cent, despite my insistence. Greece feels like a small village where everyone knows everyone and they want to help each other out.

Greece as a nation along with Greek culture extends back into antiquity and has been occupied by various empires, forced monarchy, and military rule via Nazi Germany and military Junta. The fact that Greece has been able to keep their culture is a testament to the very nature of the Greeks and their relentless perseverance. Winston Churchill said, “Until now we used to say that the Greeks fight like heroes. Now we shall say: The heroes fight like Greeks.”

I do not know which way the referendum on Sunday will go. Either way it will certainly bring continued pain and suffering to the people of Greece. If they vote “no” then it will mean the end for Greece and the Euro, but perhaps that will mean financial sovereignty even if it is at a heavy cost. If the Greeks vote “yes” that would almost certainly mean the end for Syriza and their stand against the IMF. It would also mean elections and a further delay for the government in it’s negotiations with the EU. It would also be an unknown in regards to further austerity and measures. I have friends on both sides of the referendum. Being a non-Greek I would ask that you would have compassion on the people of Greece and see them as human beings backed into a corner. They are presently faced with a decision between relentless austerity or the complete unknown of leaving the Euro currency. Let the country that birthed democracy take destiny into their own hands. Please pray for the Greek people that God would give them wisdom to vote. Join us in our prayers that they would see the hope that Jesus Christ gives and that they would walk in that hope.

“Greece is the symbol of the tortured, bloodied but live Europe.. Never a defeat was so honorable for those who suffered it.” -Maurice Schumann (From a message of his he addressed from the BBC of London to the enslaved peoples of Europe on 28 April 1941, the day Hitler occupied Athens after Greece fought a 6-month war)

Please continue to pray for God to guide us as a family, and to guide Greece as a nation.

Thank you,

Travis

For more reading:

Soapbox Greeks, beware of ‘adults in the room’

Europe’s Attack on Greek Democracy

Greek Bailout Fund on Indiegogo

What happens if Greece defaults on its International Monetary Fund loans?

Sources

(1) http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite1_1_22/01/2015_546437

(2) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/angela-merkel-rules-out-greece-debt-cuts-as-syriza-refuses-to-cooperate-with-troika-10015588.html

(3) http://stats.oecd.org/index.aspx?DataSetCode=ANHRS

(4) http://stats.oecd.org/index.aspx?queryid=36499

Flying With Children

As of this year I have been traveling with children for over 6 years. It doesn’t seem like that much time could have possibly passed, but I guess having an 8 year old proves that it did. Looking back I can remember all the major incidents, but I’m glad that I took the time to write down the smaller ones and which things really helped me along the way. As I was wandering around Pinterest.com today, I noticed that I don’t actually have a post where all of my posts about flying with children are listed. So here it is – a list of all the posts I’ve written about flying with little ones.

Flying with children

 

Flying With Children

How I Roll

Air Friendly Car Seat

Traveling With A Newborn or Infant By Plane

Flying With A 2 Year Old

Flying With A Forward Facing Car Seat

Flying with children

Packing 101: How To Pack A Suitcase Efficiently

Waiting At The Airport: Time & Money

The Seat Swap

Searching For Airplane Tickets Online

Infant Flies Out of Parent’s Arms in Turbulent Flight

flying with children

A Suitcase You Can Ride!

What Should I Pack In My Carry On Luggage?

Dealing With Jet Lag

flying with children

Dear Jet Lag, I Hate You

Flying In Bad Weather

How to Spot Human Trafficking Victims at the Airport

 

The Seat Swap – Flying With Small Kids

Have you ever had to do the, “seat swap” while traveling? No, I am not talking about some new and exciting dance or party game. I wish I was. What I am talking about is trying to sit next to your toddler or newborn without paying lots of extra money to pick your seat. In fact, there are airlines that don’t let you pick your seat at all, even if you wanted to pay extra. What’s a mother traveling with a tiny child to do? Well, you have to engage in what I like to call the seat swap. Here are a few rules that will make other passengers less likely to give you the stink eye when you ask if they would be willing to swap seats.

infant in flight

The Seat Swap Rules

1. Keep your child close.

If someone realizes that you are asking to switch seats, and they don’t see your little one near you, chances are that they are already telling you no in their head before they attempt to say it out loud. I once asked a teenager (who wasn’t sitting near his mother either) if he would be willing to switch with me. His mom started to come our way, intending to put me in my place. Her son pointed out my two year old daughter, sleepily resting in a random seat, “she wants to sit next to her little kid, Mom.” If she had seen my little one, we could have avoided the five minutes it took her working her way down the aisle full of people to yell at me for bothering her son. As soon as she saw my sleepy little muffin, the frustration melted right off of her face.

2. Smile, smile, smile!

The best way to counter grumpy people that are annoyed with you for wanting to switch seats is to smile your butt off. Well not literally, since you actually need your butt for sitting. You need to try your best to keep a positive attitude when you notice the other person seems irritated. Getting frustrated yourself is not going to help an already awkward situation. I try to explain my best, that even though I purchased five tickets together, the airline has seated my husband and our very young three children all over the plane. “I would really appreciate if you would swap seats with me.”

Ksena sitting in a CARES harness when she was a little over 3 years old.
Ksena sitting in a CARES harness when she was a little over 3 years old.

3. When they also have a travel buddy.

This is the worst situation (which can only be made worse if another parent is also traveling with their child! In my opinion, the parent with the youngest child should win). In this situation you have to be quick, and be good a remembering seat numbers. If there are only two people, you can usually get a single person to swap nearby so that the seat you need can be swapped, while they still get to sit next to their travel buddy. The most complicated instance I have ever had of this was for four people to swap seats in order for everyone to be happy. In the end I was glad though, because I couldn’t imagine my 3 week old baby (whom I had purchased a ticket for so he could have a car seat), being next to a stranger, and having to reach over them every time I needed to breastfeed. Yes, this is a serious scenario I am describing. It makes me mad at airlines, but they don’t take into account that you really need to sit next to your small child.

4. Ask which seat they prefer.

If you have seats in the aisle and next to a window (which is possible if you are traveling with a large family), ask the person you are asking to swap which one they prefer. Or you can say, “Hi, I’m traveling with a small child, does someone close want to swap for my aisle seat?”

CARES harness on three year old
My sweet looking ball of fire 🙂

5. Dealing with a Grump – Let’s Get Real!

It could be that a person refuses to switch with you. This has happened to me before. I will look at them and say something like, “Well ok, but since I can’t be next to my child during this 7 hour flight, that means that if the ‘fasten seat belt’ light comes on, that you are going to have to take care of my 2-year-old.” Or I could say something like, “Here are a few extra barf bags for when my daughter gets air-sick.” Insert their grumbling, shifting around things, and them moving to the seat I was originally assigned to. I think when someone realizes that they are going to be next to a screaming toddler, they are a tad bit more willing to be flexible.

6. If all else fails, get your flight crew involved.

If you can’t secure a reasonable solution yourself, look for the woman on your flight crew that is the most likely to have had children, and ask for her help. The flight crew is trained in smoothing over awkward situations, and they want everyone else to have a smooth flight as well. They know the chances of your child screaming for four hours increases if your seat is three rows away from them.

Do you have any stories about a seat swap on a recent trip? I would love to hear them. Please tell me I’m not the only one 😉

Happy travels,

Kristin