Blending Cultures As A Bicultural Family
Updated: Apr 22
Prior to our son being born my husband and I had the discussion on what aspects of both our cultures that we would blend into our lifestlye as a bicultural family. Since our son is of both Punjabi and Australian descent, we thought it was important to impart both of our cultures onto our son. Which can be challenging given the Indian Culture is rich in history and traditions therefore can overwhelm at times. Especially if family also want to have a say on how our son is raised. Then on the flip side the Western Culture can at times be underwhelming with its lack of cultural respect. So it can be a challenge maintaining a healthy blend of both cultures into our daily lifestyle.
One cultural aspect that we discussed early on was whether or not we would have our child wear a kara. This only came into discussion because my husbands family are practising Sikhs. Whereas my husband and I aren't particularly religious. A kara is an iron or steel bracelet worn by initiated Sikhs as a symbol of their faith and their commitment to the Sikh way of life. We decided that we would not have our son wear anything that was symbolic of any one religion or faith, such as a kara or a cross.
It was important to us as a bicultural family that our son be spiritually open to both of our cultures and not wear anything symbolic of any one faith. We believe the decision of religion/ and or faith, should be our son's choice when he is old enough to thoroughly understand. Rather than us impose any one faith onto him we have decided to teach him what we can, so that he can make his own informed decision later in life. Though traditionally children of Sikh's are raised the Sikh way of life until they become an adult. At which point it is then their decision if they continue to practise Sikhism or not.
It may seem impertinent to some not allowing our son to wear a symbol of my husband's heritage. Though as a bicultural family why should our son wear something that is symbolic to just one culture? Particularly since neither of us are religious. Furthermore to wear a kara holds so much more significance than simply being symbolic of the Sikh faith. To wear a kara is to wear an article of faith that collectively forms the external identity of a devotee and shows their commitment to living and practising the Sikh way of life. Which means there is much more involved than just wearing a kara.
So it goes without saying, given that the kara is symbolic of your commitment to the Sikh way of life, that we do not have our son follow other customs specific to faith. Such as not being permitted to ever cut your hair. As a young male devotee you must wear your uncut hair up, which is known as the rishi knot. Hair is believed to maintain ones creative energy and acts as an antenna to receiving such vibrations so to keep it in tact is to preserve ones mental stability. This is one of the five articles of a Sikh devotee known as kesh. As a reminder to maintain the cleanliness of their uncut hair a devotee will also wear a wooden comb. This also forms one of the five articles of a Sikh devotee known as kangha.
Punjabi's are very family oriented therefore parents will sleep with their children, either in the same bed or in the same room but different beds, until they are five years or much older. It comes down to personal choice as to how long you have your children sleep in your bed or room with you. Whereas the Western Culture teaches children to be independent by having them sleep in their own bedroom and bed. We decided that we wanted to have our son sleep in the same room as us, and he has thus far in his own cot.
Although once he turns one I hope to have him sleep in his own bedroom. But my husband wants to have our son continue sleeping in our bedroom for many years as possible, and when hes big enough in the same bed. As much as I love my son I believe our relationship is just as important, therefore am against co-sleeping unless it is only occasionally. So this is a discussion we will be continuing to have until we can come to a compromise.
Apart from having children sleep with their parents, children are also traditionally raised by their Grandparents in the Punjabi Culture. If we were currently living in India then this would definitely be a topic for discussion as you only get one chance to watch your child grow up. Which is why I am currently a stay at home mother.
Though for those who had their children raised by their parents, then raising their children's children is something that they would be looking forward to. Such as my husbands parents, given their parents helped raise my husband and his brother when they were younger. If we did live in India I have no problem with them helping out but to actually raise our son is something that I wouldn't be comfortable with.
These are just some of the traditions that we felt were important to discuss prior to giving birth. Albeit we have chosen not to take up some traditions, we will certainly teach all aspects of both cultures to our son. Other aspects of my husbands culture that we currently embed into our daily lifestyle is of course food. As he becomes older this is something that he can easily be involved in and learn hands on how to prepare traditional foods.
My husband also has already started teaching our son to speak Punjabi although he doesn't understand and just stares at daddy with this big cheeky toothless grin. It goes without saying given that we live in Australia and are immersed within the culture it is already a big part of our lifestyle.
There is no right or wrong way to raise a bicultural child although some might seem to think otherwise. So it is really up to you as the parent to make the best informed decision as you can when it comes to blending cultures. One thing is for certain, as our son continues to grow it will bring us many more challenges around blending cultures.
Being a blended child myself, of both Australian and Finnish heritage, I never had an issue with identifying to a culture. I always thought that being of two cultures made me more open minded than some of my peers growing up. Though this can be an issue for some bicultural children which is why I believe it is important to maintain a healthy balance between both cultures.
Are you raising a half Indian child or bicultural child?
What customs do you blend into your lifestyle?