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While Indian parents living abroad are thrilled about a trip to India, often their children are not. How does one handle the challenges?
By Radhika Kowthas
Once I sent in the e-check to the travel agent, there was no turning back! Yes, we were going to India in exactly two months. Excited, I started dreaming of the smells, the sounds, the tastes and the sights that my head brought up in quick succession.
Unable to contain it much longer, I burst out loudly, “We are going to India!” and I immediately heard groans from different corners of the house. My seven-year old stared back at me, not quite able to process the contrasting emotions she was watching.
Most of us living outside India face similar situations when we plan a trip home – and let’s face it, for first-generation immigrants, India will always be home. Our kids, born and raised outside our soil find it difficult to look beyond the immediate discomforts and changes from the environment that they have been raised in.
Here are a few tried and tested tips that you may want to try out on your next trip to India in order to make the transition less uncomfortable and more memorable to the children:
I cannot stress enough on the quality of food and water that we consume and offer our children while on a trip, and I don’t mean just India. It is always best to stick to hot food compared to cold, and if you can help it home cooked to outside, unless the restaurant/place seems hygienic. Bottled water and any hot liquids like tea/coffee are safer than sodas and smoothies, unless you are absolutely sure of quality. At the end of the day, it’s okay to err on the side of caution, than having a sick child on a vacation.
Busy minds do not have the time to get into trouble, whine, complain and waste away. If your child has a hobby, explore it further. Maya Reddy, a software engineer living in Maryland, USA, says that her 7 year old loved the camera. So she got him a simple camera before his trip and he clicked away all through his three weeks. Once back, he put the pictures together as a project ’various transportation methods in India!’. A fantastic learning experience indeed!
Busy minds do not have the time to get into trouble, whine, complain and waste away. If your child has a hobby, explore it further.
Sandhya Raj is a mother of two daughters aged 9 and 10 living in Pennsylvania, USA. She does similarly every summer. Her daughters are Bharatnatyam students and she signs them up for private lessons with a local teacher at her parents’ place. Dance lessons that jump start their passion and art, with holidays combined!
Journaling and scrapbooking is heavily undersold on the benefits it provides. Simi Suresh a mother of two boys, explains, “Get a notebook of your child’s choice and encourage them to pen/draw their thoughts down every day or regularly over the trip. The collection that you will have to read back over the next few months will amaze, humour and enlighten you as a parent and will provide for an excellent memoir for all involved.”
“Every trip down, we make it a point to visit a new place in the country. Helps with teaching kids about our country and making it a vacation within a vacation!” says Kavitha C., a kindergarten teacher based out of Southern Virginia, USA. Explore different parts of India, show the children their heritage. India is a fascinating country, vibrant and colourful with each state offering so much to learn and enjoy. Visit museums, beaches, temples, zoos/farms and spend some time teaching your kids about the different architectural styles as well as the native animals and birds which we may not see otherwise.
For many there is a strong family connection and roots back in India. Encourage kids to talk with extended family, embrace the quirks and the eccentricities along with the pampering and love. Take lots of pictures for posterity, trace and sketch the family tree. Children may not realize the value then, but they will once they look back at the images.
A trip to India is never complete without facing its harsher realities. There will be young children serving you, washing cars or begging at street corners and their state will be a shocker to tender, protected minds. It will open up questions on why there are differences at all, and it is our responsibility as parents to be honest yet not too scathing in our explanations. Explaining the hardships gently will help. Use this opportunity for teaching your kids the importance of sharing and giving selflessly and encourage them to treat everyone with respect and dignity.
There will be young children serving you, washing cars or begging at street corners and their state will be a shocker to tender, protected minds.
As Shubra Biswas from Pennsylvania puts it, “I take gently used clothes, candy, toys and crayons/pencils during every visit. I get the children to hand these out. My children are so happy that they are able to make others happy!” Compassion is a valuable life lesson that parents have an opportunity to teach by action and support.
Children are like sponges. They pick up on our emotions, likes, dislikes and then imitate us. An architect and mother of 3, Sandhya G. from Virginia, says, “Keeping a positive outlook on the trip, and continuing to keep it pleasant will ingrain and assert the positives in their impressionable minds. The little annoyances with temperature, mosquitoes, hygiene, or language will be a distant memory when they think back to the trips. Now my kids look forward to India trips and that is a pleasure to watch.”
There will always be differences in the way things get done in India compared to the country we’ve made home. Staying focused on the bigger picture will promote better memories of the country and the trips we make to stay connected.
*Photo credit: dosten (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)
Rads lives in the suburbs of Washington DC along with her husband, three kids and
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