Milestones… who doesn’t love them? I think most mothers and fathers are thrilled with the progress their children are making.
“Oh, he’s walking already, how amazing is that!”
“Oh, she’s saying her first words, so great!”
All babies, all over the world, learn to walk and talk. The time and way they do this differs, of course, but in the end, all kids end up walking upright as adults, or talking in their language.
A while back, I read Christine Gross-Loh’s article called “The Milestones that Matter Most,” and loved it. We can learn a lot from parents all over the world, and one of these things is how to teach our children become kind and responsible. But what are the milestones of a global child?
- First steps… in a different country
First steps, one of the most amazing milestones there is. But what’s just as important is that your kids take their first steps (metaphorical or real) in a different country. We travelled all over Europe when our children were babies. The first visit to another country is an important milestone – maybe just an important as learning to walk.
- First words… in another language
Mama, papa. Parents simply can’t wait for these words to happen. But what I loved most about raising multilingual children is when they learned to say a word in all of their languages. I also enjoyed anticipating not only what their first word would be but also in which language they’d say it. I think we should celebrate our kids language achievements, no matter if they start as a baby or catch up later.
- First celebration of a cultural holiday
Have you tried celebrating a different holiday? Like nameday, for example? Or a tradition which has been in your family for years but now you live abroad and everyone around you celebrates something else? You’ll never forget the first time your child ate borscht with uszka for Christmas, and you will give her a great start for the future as well as the knowledge of cultural traditions all over the world!
- First time using technology… to connect
We’re great believers in the power of technology to bring people together. We Skype with the grandparents, we let them watch videos in Polish and German, and we believe that technology can bring the world into our homes. The first time your child can use technology to connect with others all over the world, it will open up a world for them.
- First time making friends… from another culture
The great thing about living abroad is that the children get to know other kids from all over the world. My children have friends from all over the world, including Germany, Poland, the US, the Netherlands, and many others. What I love about this is that it normalizes the many multiple identities that all TCKs (third culture kids) have. The first time will be just the start.
- First baby food…that’s different
I know that in the US, rice is the first baby food. But in the Netherlands, I was told to start with vegetables, and then move on to fruit. In some countries, children are given mashed table food from the start. We tried to make sure that our kids had normal food (meaning whatever we ate) as soon as possible, and I love diverse cuisine, so that’s what I cook. I remember when my kids were learning to eat with sticks, and now they also ask: “can we eat this with our hands?”
- First book… about children all over the world
We all read to our kids: Fairy tales, stories. We can’t wait to read to our children the books we’ve enjoyed when we were children ourselves. But we should also remember books about global citizens. Stories from another culture. Stories about TCKs, and stories about outsiders. In other words, stories just for our kids.
- First letters… in another language
I was surprised by how writing styles differ around the world, so I wrote a post about it. Our kids are learning one alphabet (Polish, German, Dutch and English all use the Latin alphabet), but it amazes me how quickly they get the basics right and apply the things they learned in one language to another. I can’t wait till short sentences will give way to longer stories, essays and maybe more!
- First sign of interest in the world
Babies are open to learning about their world, no matter where they are. Let’s expand that world for them. Let’s teach them there is much more than just their backyard and it will pay off. Soon the kids will play “let’s go to another country” or ask about the war in Syria. This may take a while but it will definitely be worth it.
- First time they try to define themselves
Babies think they’re a part of their mother, but soon they will learn their names, ages, and gender. They will also find out that they are Polish/American/German/Chinese… For global citizens and TCKs, the matter is more complex because they don’t have just one national identity to choose from. Trying to determine one’s identity is hard but it’s also very important, and the first time the children will try to define themselves can be difficult for parents to bear but it’s also crucial for the children’s development.
When chatting about a global child’s development, what other crucial milestones would you add?