Understanding the Duality of Our Child's Identity

Understanding the Duality of Our Child’s Identity

We bring to you the fascinating Niyati Desai-Kadakia. During the day, Niyati runs her tech start up – Nulern. She is also an expert packer-of-lunchboxes, kid activity coordinator, chauffeur and PTA enthusiast. At night she moonlights as a story-teller, spinning tales to answer the darnedest questions posed by her twin daughters. Her stories are mostly inspired by her own experiences of being an immigrant student and then a first generation Indian-American mother. Her stories focus on questions, concerns and feelings children have as they are being raised by parents who grew up in a different culture than theirs, which encourages them to create their own unique identity that is whole and complete.

She founded KidzBelong to meet a pressing need to have picture books address needs of children of immigrant families who are particularly vulnerable to feeling marginalized and different.

Niyati holds a B.S. in Biochemical Engineering from USC, B.A. in Literature from Scripps College and M.A. in Biotechnology from Columbia University. In the past, she has worked as a scientist in several biotech start ups and innovation centers, that specialize in Brain Health and Drug Delivery. She has lived in 3 countries, 5 states and 8 homes (although not all at once) with her husband and daughters. She currently enjoys life with them in Greenwood Village, Colorado.

Tell us a little about yourself and your family.

(A long long time ago, in a galaxy far far away), I came to the US from India, to study for my bachelors. I met my husband, Niraj, during my under-graduate studies and we noticed that we laughed at each other’s’ jokes, when others around us didn’t and we liked the same movies, so we decided to get married.

Soon after we got married, we found every chance to camp, backpack, binge on TV shows and make moderately edible food together. Although all that was a whole lot of fun, we proceeded to bring twin beautiful girls into this world – Nivedita and Niharika. In our sleep deprived state, we went on to live in 3 different countries, 5 states and 8 homes. We continue to camp, backpack and binge on tv shows – we just do it with our 10-year-old daughters now. Life has never been more fun.


Which cities have your lived in/ visited in your lifetime? Which is your favorite?

It is virtually impossible to pick a favorite city. Each place that I have lived in has so many beautiful and cherished memories that picking one out of them would be unfair.

 I have liked living in the following cities:

Baroda, Gujarat, India – this is home for me. I grew up here, went to school here and learn ow to ride a bike here.  I describe this city with the words – home, roots, security, family, food and love.

Los Angeles, CA – I studied here at USC and Claremont. I also met my to-be husband here. I grew from a girl to a young woman here. It is also the first city I landed in as an immigrant student when I came to study in the US. So this city always brings back a lot of emotion. I describe this city with the words – studies, competition, immigration, homesickness and letters.

New York City, NY – I did my graduate school here, at Columbia. I decided to get married in this city – and have some beautiful memories from here. I moved on from being a young woman to a wife here and made some of the most important decisions in my life in this lovely city. I describe this city with the words – love, marriage, energy, immigrant crossroads.

San Jose, CA – I lived here soon after I got married. I was getting used to getting called someone’s wife. This is also the place where I started my professional life as a scientist and worked in several biotech startups in the bay area. I earned my first paycheck here and learnt what a 401K is here. I describe this city with the words – married life, natural beauty, adventure, money and profession.

Philadelphia, PA – My husband and I moved here, while my husband studied towards his business degree at Wharton. My twins were born here. 2 Biotech startups I worked for also got acquired while I worked for them here – so lots of activity here! I became a mom in this city and will owe a lot to the hospitals that helped my preemie babies. I describe this city with the words – motherhood, chaos, prayer and family.

Bombay, India – My family lives in Bombay, so this city is (sort of) home for me too. We also moved to Bombay with our daughters to try-out moving back to India. Although we enjoyed our life there, we could not settle down professionally and returned back to North America. I describe this city with the words – immigrant decisions, homesickness (but homesick for the US), citizen for the world, identity crisis and dual culture.

Toronto, Canada – My kids went to kindergarten in this beautiful city. And started elementary school here. I describe this city with the words – diversity, acceptance, home and friends.

Denver, CO – We live here currently and love the mountain that surround us. My daughters move from elementary to middle school in this city. I started my own startup here and am trying to manage being a mom-entrepreneur. I describe this city with the words – mountains, parenthood, entrepreneurship and family.

What brought you to what you do?

I run an online learning startup – Nulern. Nulern enables live, 1 on 1 learning in lifestyle based skill sets with globally accessible, vetted experts.

Since our family has moved a lot, we felt the need to start an online learning platform that makes learning proactive and removes restrictions like geography, time and location from accessing wonderfully nurturing experts in skill sets that are under-represented in our current learning environment, like music, language, cooking and art.

What is one aspect in raising multicultural children do we need to be MOST aware of ?

While raising multicultural children, I most emphasize on the empowerment of having a duality in the child’s identity. While it is easy and often natural to select one or the other definitions of identity for a child (I am Indian or I am american etc), it is important to emphasize the completeness in also having more than 1 identity (I am Indian, American and canadian etc)  and still being whole, complete and unique.

My daughters have 3 passports and while they often talk about patriotism in confusing terms, I encourage them and those around them to see them as complete individuals without any 1 patriotic leaning or cultural heritage, but more than 1 heritage and still have a wonderfully complete and complex identity.

What is one personal challenge you have overcome growing up?

I learnt about how money works much later on in life and wish I had learnt those lessons when young. 🙂

Share with us two parenting hacks that have made your/child’s life easy.

My husband and I set rules that we never break – there is almost no argument in our home because of these rules (no phones around family, no tv on weekdays, read 30 min before bed, no shoes in the house, in bed by 8:30 etc).

We always sit together and eat for dinner (this enables us to connect as a family and talk about what is happening in each of our lives).

We write letters to family abroad (helps with practicing how to write a letter for kids and helps them keep in touch).

Door are never locked in our home (enables us to be open and receptive at all times)

We emphasize that school and grades are not everything.  Believe it or not, this has helped them look at life quite differently.

What projects are you working on next?

I am the co-founder to an online learning startup – Nulern. I am consumed with that.

What is one thing piece of advice you would give to children?

Be good, kind and useful. Everything else is extra.

Tell us three things that are on your bucket list?

To hike the Grand Canyon rim to rim.

To backpack across the country.

To maybe one day, meet the Dalai Lama.

What 3 books/movies would you say changed your life?

As a Man Thinketh by James Allen

The living Gita by Swami Satchidananda

Where this is love, there is God by mother Teresa

Millionaire next door by Thomas Stanley

‘It’s a wonderful life’ movie

Green for life – Victoria Beutenko

Do you have any freebies for our readers/listeners?

Buy one get one 1/2 off (non-amazon orders only)

Readers can place orders on kidzbelong@gmail.com or call/whatsapp 720-899-2590/or my PMing of FB/Instagram

You can find & connect with Niyati on social media here —

https://www.facebook.com/KidzbelongBooks/

https://www.instagram.com/kidzbelong/

Make sure you pick up copies of Niyati’s books to read to your child to help them understand the duality of their identity.

Also, be sure to grab a copy of our bestselling book for you for practical tips to better parent your multicultural child to thrive.

 

Understanding the Duality of Your Child's Identiy

Easy Ways to Spread Christmas Cheer Around Multicultural Homes

Easy Ways to Spread Christmas Cheer Around Multicultural Homes

Every festival creates a remote, yet a faint sense of goodness. Irrespective of how we fare other days, festivals are when we feel forgiving in a kind and noble way. I think that’s why such days seem all the more beautiful because we tend to unlearn a lot of things, while embracing an aura of goodness around.

Christmas is no different as well. Like other festivals, we feel beautiful and wish to create some beautiful memories as well.

Back in my growing up years, when fetching a decorative Christmas tree was out of bounds, I remember how my mother took the pains of creating one, from a green shimmery chart paper. With some added chart paper balls and bells, she turned my fantasy Christmas tree, into a reality. Nothing seemed as beautiful then.

I remember how my other friends relished the look of the tree and so my mother decided to have the tree parked right at the entrance, so that it looked as if it belonged to everybody in the building and not just me!

My friends were elated. I wasn’t so pleased initially and scowled at the suggestion first. I felt it was too much to demand from an eight year old version of me. However, after much of persuasion, I gave in!

Since then, I try to imbibe the spirit on at least the festival days like Christmas. There’s no rule book of doing things. Only one simple rule implies-do things which give you happiness and happiness is contagious. It will spread like wild fire, differently though, through different people, but yes someone has to ignite that spark.

And what better way to bid adieu to the year gone by than to say it with Christmas bang! With kids, it just becomes another beautiful way to unwind, relax and enjoy! Here’s what you can do to spread cheer!

Cook together

There’s nothing as beautiful as whipping up that basic meal with everyone. Trust me, too many hands might spoil the dish, but will make the moment cherished! Try it! Whether it’s that traditional recipe or a simple cake, the more the company, the merrier the memory! After all, isn’t festival a great time to create some wonderful memories with kids!

Eat together

Time to savor the creation or maybe the disaster, but who cares! Food is a mere excuse to enjoy the company! It’s just a prop to relish each other’s company and when the company’s good, everything feels good. Even if its’s an underdone or overdone meal!

Make crafts

Simple crafts like drawing Christmas trees, making cards for family or ornaments are a great way to rejoice during this time.

Watching movies and reading books

Kids love to get a hang of everything that tells volumes about the festival. Reading books or watching movies like “Polar Express”, “Christmas Carol” or even “Home Alone” series are just about enough to get bitten by the magical charm of the festival!

Visit special fairs and events

I love visiting events and places, which get decked up during festivals. It just creates the perfect ambience of the occasion. Book fairs, craft fairs selling Christmas trinkets and décor, Secret Santa are just an amazing way to feel the vibe and kids love to see such Christmassy things!

Share gifts with underprivileged

The thrill of unwrapping presents is priceless! However, the thrill can be extended if the gifts are shared with friends or perhaps some underprivileged ones. Nothing beats the feeling than giving joy to someone, who really deserves it! Try it with your kid, to derive a feeling that just cannot be explained in words.

All it takes is a smile

Smile and the world smiles with you! Yes, whoever said that just simply nailed it! And smiling and wishing people a simple “Merry Christmas” could become that little spark to spread that flame of happiness! I have managed to make it spread and spread it further so why not this Christmas.

Try and feel as beautiful as you want because it’s the season of joy! These are simple things to remind you that life is beautiful and can be enjoyed through very simple things in life! Festivals are a joyful break for all of us, to halt, remind and help us savor the simple pleasures of life and the goodness around!

And children need such simple things to hang onto and create some wondrous memories around!

Read more about how multicultural families around the world celebrate Christmas in their homes here. Share your Christmas fun with us in the comments below.

The Multicultural Guide To Your Advent Calendar

The Multicultural Guide To Your Advent Calendar

The origin of the Advent Calendar can be traced back to the 19th. Century. The first styles came from the German protestant area where religious families made a chalk line for every day in December until Christmas Eve. The first known Advent Calendar which was made by handwork is from the year 1851. Since then, this Christian tradition has been part of the Holidays repertoire of many families around the world. Family member and friends look for the perfect Advent Calendar to begin the holidays celebrations. 

This calendar come in a multitude of forms, from a simple paper calendar with flaps covering each of the days to fabric pockets on a background scene to painted wooden boxes with cubby holes for small items. Many families craft their Advent Calendars themselves, making of this process a great opportunity to kick off the Christmas season. There are so many wonderful ideas out there to create the perfect calendar for your family. Chocolates, candy, fudge, small toys, pocket books and many other items are suitable to keep children excited about opening their calendar every day. 

How to nurture children’s curiosity and raise global awareness during the Holidays season?

A multicultural Advent Calendar is the answer! 

Each day of this years advent my family and I are concentrating in being present, giving our time and attention as a gift, and learning more about holiday traditions around the world. These are some of the ideas that have made our Multicultural Advent Calendar possible. Remember to include some nick-knacks from your country of origin to learn more about your own heritage. Cultural awareness begins with the recognition and appreciation of one’s culture. 

  1. Time to visit your local ethnic market. 

From food to pottery, ethnic stores are a great place to introduce your children to another culture. It is a tiny appetizer to the knowledge of fruits, vegetables, tea, coffee, sweets, pastries, and even clothing from other countries. Depending on the age of your children, you can simply buy a traditional sweet as a gift for some of the days of the Advent Calendar, or you can gift the excitement of a new adventure. How? Write a note that the kids will unwrap to discover that they have been invited to explore a new supermarket with many things from far away lands. You can even include a small allowance for them to spend there. 

2. Sweets and Storytelling go together.

Enclosed your child’s favorite chocolate and a note inviting him to spend time on the sofa with mom and dad listening to a fun Christmas story. We have many books that we have collected over the years about Christmas around the world. Children love to hear what people from other countries eat on Chistmas Eve, or what present kids receive in other cultures. Keep it fun! 

3. Spending time together is always fun.

In any language, in any culture, the need for interaction is key element of happiness. The Holidays season is a great opportunity to give ourselves to others and experience the positive rush of thinking of others and helping the community. Including some “days” in your Advent Calendar designated to spending time together as a family is always fun and cheap (for those like us that are always on a budget). My daughter loves rubbers (erasers), so for her we packed tiny unicorn erasers along with a note (pink paper of course) that says “hot cocoa time with mom”. On that day, I turn off my mobile phone, set the iPad aside, and make delicious hot chocolate to be drunk with my princess, just the two of us, chatting and enjoying the warmth of our decorated living room. 

4. Treasure hunt meets Christmas season.

Treat your children to clues that will lead to a wonderful prize! Maybe a weekend getaway or a visit to a museum to learn more about your local culture. Kids will be for sure excited about going on a trip with mom and dad, and parents can make of this trip the perfect opportunity to explore their own traditions. Make an effort to prepare beforehand for the event. Reading about the place to be visited is always a good idea, that way children can reinforce hands-on what they have learned at home. Remember that if traveling is beyond the means of your family’s budget, you can try the next big thing: find a movie that will anchor your adventure. A film about other culture is a nice foundation for further knowledge. 

5. Teach you child the “saving & sharing” lesson. 

Saving is a skill that must be learned from a young age. Depositing a special Advent “bonus” into your child’s account is an exciting way to nurture the love for saving. Therefore, prepare an Advent day where kids unwrap a chocolate and a note that says that money has been added to their savings account. Do you want to take this gift one step further? Encourage your children to look for a charitable cause to donate part of their bonus to help those in need. There are a huge number of websites with information about charity institutions around the world. Help your children to choose one and then learn more about that country.

In conclusion, it is important that your family enjoys the Advent time and learn about diverse Christmas traditions. However, let’s not forget that despite the pervasiveness of Christmas, it is critical that any globally minded person not assume that everyone celebrates it. Be open to diversity and enjoy different cultures and “Christmasses”. 

Have a wonderful Advent time! For more such stories from me, visit Little Nomads.