It is part of our job to be responsive to each child and family, regardless of their culture or country of origin, however we often struggle with what we don’t understand or can’t relate to.
It is for that reason, in a hypothetical situation where I, as the Director of a Child Care center would need to prepare for a family joining our facility from a different part of the world, I would like to take the time to explore the culture and family structure of a family from India.
I very honestly struggle most with this ethnic group and some of their cultural norms as it relates to children and families. In many ways, I understand it the least and therefore have a more difficult time being responsive, but other times I also recognize that I understand it just fine, but that I have more difficulty with it personally.
From my perspective and in my experience, I have felt that many children from families of Indian decent have far less self help skills and have a harder time adjusting to group care settings because they are so doted on at home and we traditionally think that children have a need for self-help skills and independence so there is a vast conflict of interest there. I personally feel as though independence and self-help skills promote their confidence and their buy in when teaching them responsibility from a young age (part of our program design), which can make a situation like this feel as though we are working against one another instead of together.
In preparing for this family, I would take the time to research and do the following:
- Understanding that in their culture, the extended family is extremely important and involved in one anthers lives, I would prepare for and make an effort to know or get to know as many of them as I am able, welcome them, and treat them all as part of the family.
- Seek to understand the family hierarchy and respect the hierarchy that they follow (does Dad take the lead in a more traditional male-centric role? Is mom involved in decision-making? etc).
- Familiarizing myself in ways we can best promote development while also being culturally responsive – Understanding that experiences are different depending on a child’s gender. Boys are celebrated and doted upon more than baby girls and they have traditionally been more valued and thus more cared for than girls.
- Take the time to get to know their parenting style as it relates to the Indian child-rearing culture – do they choose to co-sleep? do they believe in hand-feeding the children for longer than we would typically choose?
- Find a time to discuss the child’s schedule with the parents. It is typical in Indian culture that there is no schedule and things are very loose. Working in a Child Care, we all know that things run according to a schedule and ensuring the children are successful and we ease the transitions is essential for us. Taking the time to get on the same page should be a priority.