When you live in another country and have no family living close to you, it can be a little difficult to raise your kids immersed in your own culture and language. It’s a great responsibility to teach them all about Venezuela, because it depends only on us, and with our fast pace lifestyle, it could easily be left out. There is a couple of things I do to keep our country present in our daily life. Here are some tips for new Venezuelan parents who live across the border:
- Speak your language at home. Let your kids hear your sayings, slangs, your accent.
- Cook the traditional food. Even though it’s not very healthy and light, I try to make arepas once in a while, as well as plantain with cheese.
- Listen to your music, your anthem. During the Worldcup season, I don’t know why, but I’ve been singing non-stop the Anthem of the Americas, and Magdalena learned it. I also showed her a version of Venezuelan National Anthem performed by the Symphonic Orchestra of Venezuela, directed by the great and incomparable Gustavo Dudamel.
- Buy the jersey of your hometown soccer or baseball team or traditional clothes and accessories.
- When you’re getting ready to receive visitors from Venezuela, and they ask you if you want them to bring you something, you know the answer: coffee, chocolate, plantain chips, coconut waffle cookies. Don’t be shy and ask with no guilt.
- Include Venezuela in the bedtime routine. I use to read to my kids as part of their routine before going to bed. Many times we read children’s stories written by Venezuelan authors, like Miguel Ángel Jusayú and Aquiles Nazoa. Include it in your prayers too.
- Show them pictures and videos of scenery and important places of the country.
- Tell them about notable Venezuelans. Magdalena, at 6 years old, has a very deep calling for fashion design. Recently we started talking to her about Carolina Herrera, a well know Venezuelan haute couture designer. We also showed her some videos of her latest collection and are planning a visit to her store in Manhattan. Simon Bolivar is another popular name in our household. For her young age she doesn’t know details, but at least knows who he was.
- Tell them stories about your childhood, games, places you used to visit, toys. I always tell them about the iguanas in my elementary school, my frequent trips to The Andes and the countless times I climbed the mango tree in my backyard, and sat on a branch and ate mangos of course.
It doesn’t matter only where we live now, but also where we come from. Those memories and experiences are what made us what we are. Besides all the benefits of being bilingual, the kids will definitely enjoy learning your story and it will strengthen their connection with you.