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Culture & Child-Rearing

Dear Debi,
My wife & I come from two different cultural backgrounds. We want to expose our children to both cultures. How do we do this without confusing them?
David & Amelia Goldstein
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Understand & respect the differences in both cultures
  • Talk privately, but openly, about different child-rearing practices
  • Find mutually satisfying approaches on child-rearing
  • Communicate openly & clearly with care givers
  • Expose your child to cultural perspectives, traditions & practices from both cultures
Expert Advice
Melanie Domenech Rodriguez, Ph.D
Melanie Domenech Rodriguez, Ph.D
Utah State University
As long as the experience is positive, exposing your children to both parentsí cultural backgrounds can really benefit children in many ways. Bi-culturalism encourages children to be more flexible. They become an individual able to navigate through cultural differences as they grow up. It teaches children that it is possible for people to get along in the world no matter what cultural differences may exist.

Celebration of holidays can also sometimes cause conflicts. Parents should decide amongst themselves what holidays will be celebrated ahead of time. The options can range from celebrating all of their combined cultural holidays to celebrating none at all. Itís impossible to agree on everything in advance when it comes to child-rearing. But you can agree on how you will resolve conflicts as they arrive. The important thing is that parents approach this from a united front. They have to agree not to contradict each other in front of their children.

A good rule is to negotiate differences outside the eyes and ears of the children. However, if parents engage about a conflict in front of a child, it should be done with respect and care. Seeing negotiation taking place effectively and productively can have a very powerful influence on children. Addressing conflict sensitively can be a good model for children.

To resolve any cultural conflicts which may arise, parents should communicate what their expectations are of the caregiver. Have this conversation from the very beginning. Clear communication is vital to a successful relationship between the parents and caregiver. Do the parents want to provide their childís food? If so, will the child care provider respect this decision and know how to prepare the food?

Resolution of conflicts with child care providers outside the family is often easier than when the child care provider is part of the family. It can become a bit trickier with family members. When it comes to family members who provide child care Ė they really need to respect the decision of the parents. If, after the parents have explained what traditions they want respected, and these are ignored or denigrated by family caregivers, it is best to find another caregiver, if at all possible.
Child Care Provider Comments
Nausheen Shah
Nausheen Shah
Iím Pakistani and Muslim and my husband is Indian. With both my kids, I talk with them in my language, which is Urdu. When we have cultural events, like weddings, we dress my older daughter in outfits that are ethnic. We watch a lot of cultural programs on TV everyday. We eat Indian and Pakistani foods at home. To learn about my husbandís culture, my daughter goes with my mother-in-law to their temple. My mother-in-law is always telling her things about the religion. She goes out with my sister-in-law to different events, like dance events. My husband speaks Gujarati. With the kids, he speaks English. My mother-in-law and her family speak Gujarati with her, which is very different than Urdu. I grew up with four different languages at once and my children will know Gujarati, Urdu, & English.
Mona Shah
Mona Shah
Nausheen and I are from two totally different cultures. They are viewed as opposite cultures. My family was not thrilled when my brother and Nausheen decided to marry. The main issue was what to do if they had kids. My family was concerned and worried about keeping up the religion and culture. Both wanted to keep up the traditions. We had never had an interracial marriage. Nausheen and Baveen are both very open to both religions and cultures. They didnít have a problem with it. They said that the children would be raised with both.
Consuelo Ducoing
Consuelo Ducoing
Child care provider for 14 years
I care for a boy whose family is Jewish and Christian. The family celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas. They teach him about Santa Claus and about the Hanukkah candles. I asked him about opening a present every day for Hanukah. He doesnít completely understand it, but he does know that candles are lit every day for Hanukkah. He is absorbing everything. We also read books about other cultures. I introduced Feliz Navidad and tell him how I celebrate in Mexico.

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Culture & Child-Rearing Featured Video:
Culture & Child-Rearing
Topic: Social & Emotional Development
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