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

How To Travel With Your Kids Successfully

If you are a regular reader, you have probably seen most of these posts, but there are new readers to this website every day. This post is for you, new readers. Welcome!! And if you are a dedicated reader, check the list below, because there may be a few awesome articles you missed before.

Maybe you are just starting out on your travel adventures with your family, or maybe you have already started, but you want things to go more smoothly next time. Whether you are a seasoned parent, or a newbie, I hope you will find the resources on this website helpful. I have so many articles, it may be difficult to know where to start, so let me help you out. Here are the most important articles for you to read before your next family trip, organized by category. I hope this will be a good starting point on how to travel with your kids in a fun way.

1. I’m New, I’m New, I Don’t Know What To Do

Deep breaths. You’ve got this. Taking the time to look for help shows that you are on the right path. Here are some posts that will help new parents navigate the world of travel with small children.

baby wearing on vacation

Shock and Awe: First Time Traveling Jitters

Things I’ve Learned About Traveling With Children

– 7 Initial Steps: Planning To Travel With Children

– Traveling With A Nursing Infant

– The Travel Syndrome

Dressing Your Kids For Travel

Dressing For An Easy Diaper Change

Child Safety and Travel: Establishing Rules and Boundaries

Packing Your Diaper Bag For A Day Trip

The Physical Demands of Traveling

Staying In A Hotel With Small Children

– Don’t Let Them Guilt You! (A guide to dealing with unhappy fellow travelers)

– Rest Stops & Potty Breaks

– Just Breathe! (How to deal with the inevitable stress of being a parent)

The Best Guest: Staying in Someone’s Home

Keep Candy In Your Purse

A Day At The Beach

Baby Wearing While Traveling

A Travel Lesson From Aesop (You can’t please everyone all of the time)

The Perceived Reality Of A Parent

Parenting & The Art Of Distraction

Trash Is Toy Treasure

A Traveling Mom’s Guide To Breastfeeding In Public

Why I Love Traveling With A Family

2. In The Air

How to navigate the world of air travel with children.

infant in flight

How I Roll

Air Friendly Car Seat

Traveling With A Newborn or Infant By Plane

Flying With A 2 Year Old

Packing 101: How To Pack A Suitcase Efficiently

Waiting At The Airport: Time & Money

Searching For Airplane Tickets Online

Infant Flies Out of Parent’s Arms in Turbulent Flight

A Suitcase You Can Ride!

What Should I Pack In My Carry On Luggage?

Dealing With Jet Lag

Dear Jet Lag, I Hate You

Flying In Bad Weather

How to Spot Human Trafficking Victims at the Airport

3. Vroom – vroom.

Dealing with travel by car, whether you are head one hour away, or driving 6,500 miles in three weeks (yes, we did that with three kids, and it was fun).

child in carseat

Planning the Ultimate Family Road Trip

My Kid Gets Carsick, Now What?

Saving Money on Road Trips

Music For Everyone In The Family

Road Trip Sleeping Solutions

The Bubble Bum: Best Booster Ever

Encouraging Children To Get Along In The Car

Car Seat Laws that changed in 2014

4. Do It Yourself

Here is a collection of a few DIY travel tools that will make your next trip run more smoothly while saving you some money.

car seat luggage

Hitchin’ A Ride: Turn your carry on bag into a stroller using your car seat

DIY Alternative to Flimsy Stroller Cases

SER Baby Travel Pillow Tutorial

Child Travel Pillow Tutorial

DIY Travel High Chair For Wiggly Toddlers

5. Roadblocks

How to react when things do not go exactly as planned.

All three children alseep at 2300 (11pm) in the Mc Cafe in Vienna's International Airport.
All three children alseep at 2300 (11pm) in the Mc Cafe in Vienna’s International Airport.

Travel Gone Wrong

Things Get Lost

Plans Change

Follow Your Gut (Avoiding scams and tricks when traveling)

Traveling while Potty Training – Accidents Happen

Rain, Rain, Go Away (dealing with bad weather)

Traveling While Pregnant (series)

Gum In My Kids’ Hair

Of course, I have many other fun and informative posts about travel that I haven’t mentioned here, but I thought these would be a good starting point.

Happy travels,

Kristin

Have a specific travel question? Check out this section of the website: Ask Kristin

The #1 Thing – Better Family Photography

This is the second post in the Better Family Photography series.

One of the things that I wish I had known about travel photography from the beginning is that the best photos have a strong element of humanity in them. Whether it is someone holding something in their hands, or the smile on an older gentleman’s face, the sights you see will look better on film if they take you to a specific memory, not a general place. I’m not saying that you should avoid taking a picture of the Eiffel Tower when you go to Paris, but maybe your approach should be to include the Eiffel Tower as an element in a picture where someone or something else is the subject.

The need for an element of humanity is amplified in family photography when you are traveling with your family because the memories you want to capture involve people that you love. I have a very specific example in mind to illustrate the importance of including your family members as the focal points of your photography, and it involves two little girls that are very much interested in the art of photography. Let me set the scene for you:

Surrounded in tall buildings on every side for many kilometers there is a medium sized park in the center of Athens. It is the only place in this otherwise cement jungle where you can find giant trees, exotic animals, and hanging gardens. It offers shade to the weary, a place to run free for the children, and an amazing opportunity to photograph nature. This is one of my favorite places in the entire city, and my kids love the awe and stark contrast to the surrounding city.

We were there doing a family shoot for some friends, and I was struck by how green everything was. After using my handy dandy light meter (get yours here for FREE) as a starting point for my settings, I started to photograph these beautiful green leaves that the sun was illuminating from above. My first shot was a success, but I decided to take one more just in case. Later on when I was going through my images on the computer, I noticed that the second picture had two little intruders that snuck in the frame. You can see the difference below.

family photography tutorial travel 2

Read more

Ultimate Family Road Trip: Renting A Car, Why?

I’m really excited to publish the second post in the Ultimate Family Road Trip series! Today’s post is about renting a car. If you are planning a road trip in your home country, and you own a car, you obviously do not need to rent one. But if you are going to another country and plan on taking a road trip while there, you will need to rent a car.

But before we get ahead of ourselves you might be asking, “Kristin, why would I fly to a different country and then go on a road trip?” One of the best ways to see a different country (or a least a few cities in it) is to drive. There are places you simply cannot go by public transportation. You get to interact with locals in a different way than you would in the big city center, and you are more likely to see the hidden treasures that are the essence of the place you are at, that most tourists often miss out on.

Here is Travis driving the car onto a ferry that took us to Thassos. It was definitely amazing to have a car on such a large island. We would have missed a lot of amazing sites without it.

Remember that driving in another country often has other costs than you would expect (check out the first post in this series: planning). And even if you don’t see a toll both, that does not mean you don’t have to pay. A lot of countries have vignettes that you have to buy to stick on the inside of your windshield. So make sure that you do your research! The last thing you want on your family road trip is to get pulled over and slapped with a 300 euro fine. Or even worse, you could get home and find out after you get home that the rental car agency was mailed a ticket from you getting caught on a speeding camera. Make sure you pay attention to the speed limit. Read more