By Tom Vartabedian
In this ever-changing world of assimilation and ethnic diversity, I’m finding it more and more difficult to keep my children Armenian.
It wasn’t always this way, given their involvement with the church, Armenian School, and various youth groups.
But now that they’re married—each to non-Armenians—it’s become a role reversal. Oh, sure, they’re well aware of their culture and heritage but that’s about the extent of it. With children of their own, I’m hoping to see a renaissance. With all fingers crossed.
If I had the perfect answer, I would write a book on the subject and mark my words, it would turn into a best seller. Begging the question of Armenian stability, sometimes the answers are right before our eyes.
For what it’s worth, I’m prepared to offer readers a guide that may not be foolproof but certainly well worth the exercise. Who knows? What didn’t work for me may be just what the psychologist ordered for you.
–Assuming you don’t know Armenian, I would search the various educational institutes to find a language course. If there is none, go for the history or any class involving an Armenian subject. Sign up for it and bring a child or two. Tell them you will attend as a family and make a social of it.
–Like the old saying, “Monkey see, monkey do.” If you can’t get your kids to an Armenian church on Sunday morning, try attending yourself and maybe offer to teach. Otherwise, play another significant role. Get them enrolled in various classes and make the church a stable part of their lives through high school. The boys could always become acolytes, stole-bearers, deacons, and attend the various religious camps being offered by the Prelacy and Diocese.
–When your kids become of age, don’t hesitate to introduce them to youth groups such as the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) and Armenian Church Youth Organization of America (ACYOA). Give them choices. A healthy American lifestyle can be complemented by an Armenian side. Get them motivated enough to attend the different commemorations and celebrations. You don’t see kids at these venues anymore unless they’re playing a role. Give them a reason for being there. Include them in your program.
–Host a house party with members of the opposite sex when age permits. As a chaperone, you might monitor the evening’s festivities and teach them various Armenian dances they don’t know. Every legitimate Armenian home should have ethnic music playing around children. Whether they want to hear it or not, trust me, they’ll grow accustomed to it and march to the same beat in time.
–Give them Armenian names at birth. They don’t have to be tongue-twisters. A simple Ara or Sonya or Raffi will suffice. These represent the names of my three children and none of them ever balked. A name is a person’s most sacred possession and gives them identity.
–Suggest a book report on some Armenian subject and work with them in completing the project. Make sure your library has a fair supply of books on Armenian literature. If your town library is devoid of such material, get the youth group to donate a book or two. If nothing else, it’ll give them a sense of community pride.
–Fly the Armenian flag and put your kids in charge. Buy them t-shirts with an ethnic logo. Artifacts around the home are always pleasing reminders of one’s heritage. Turn your house into an Armenian home without overkill.
–The biggest test is when they depart for college and become immersed in non-Armenian circles. Suddenly, their ethnicity takes a back seat. It doesn’t have to be that way. Try and get them involved in an Armenian club on campus or with the Armenian Students’ Association (ASA). If none exists, motivate them to start a club, regardless of the number of Armenians enrolled. All it takes is a few dedicated individuals.
–When summers arrive and most students are in a quandary as to their activity, steer them straight toward Armenia where they can work for a number of benevolent organizations, like the Armenian Relief Society (ARS). One summer in Hayasdan will have them clamoring for more. Or else, they could work as a Congressional aide in Washington, D.C., or intern with the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
–Let them approach such agencies as Project SAVE and the Armenian Library and Museum of America (ALMA) for a volunteer stint. An Armenian nursing home offers potential, if they’re into geriatrics. Might even lead to a career.
The bottom line is to involve them with other Armenians. Make heritage a priority in your family, even if it’s bisected. The results will be positive.
Source: Armenian Weekly, June 24, 2010