As descendants of the Caribbean diaspora, we have the privilege of being caretakers of a beautifully rich culture, from the bright colors and high-energy music of a Haitian Rara Festival to the rhythmic language of Jamaican Patois.
But part of being caretakers of a culture is ensuring it is passed down from generation to generation. And that process begins with our own children. These ways to help kids connect with their heritage will help keep the traditions of our culture alive.
Telling stories is an integral part of any culture, and anyone who has even been to the islands knows that this tradition is strong in the Caribbean. And since you can enjoy a story at any age, stories are one of the easiest ways to help kids connect with their heritage.
There are several ways to go about this. You can tell traditional folk stories from the Caribbean like stories of Anansi or Gang Gang Sara or buy them books set in the Caribbean. Alternatively, you can tell stories from your family’s experience.
There are plenty of cultural practices and traditions that you find on the islands that you don’t see elsewhere. The only way your children will know about it is if they hear about it from you.
Choose the traditions that you care about most and find ways to incorporate them into your life. For example:
- Celebrate holidays like Carnival or the Pirate Festival
- Listen to Caribbean music
- Take a dance class in traditional styles as a family
- Play “dress up” with traditional clothing
Among cultural traditions out there, there are few more fun to take part in than making and eating food. If Caribbean cuisine isn’t already part of your family’s diet, then add jerk chicken or mofongo to dinnertime a few times a month.
If you have a little extra time, make cooking dinner a learning opportunity for your children. Bring your kids alongside you and teach them how to make your favorite traditional dishes. Not only are the skills practical, but you’ll give them the chance to feel they are part of the traditions themselves.
Whether you’re currently living in the islands or abroad, you can still bring the sights and sounds of our culture into your home with your home décor. A few ways you can surround your kids with the images of your family’s heritage include:
- Bringing in color schemes reminiscent of Caribbean neighborhoods or flags
- Hanging traditional artwork
- Adding tropical plants to your space
- Choosing furniture and art made of traditional materials like wicker, bamboo, and rattan.
Since this is a more subtle form of introducing your kids to their culture, it’s never too early to start. Think about the islands when choosing your nursery color scheme or art for your kid’s room.