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Navigating the Challenges of Multicultural Parenting

Tips and strategies for raising children with two cultures


As parents in a multicultural family, Ezenwa and I understand that raising children can present a unique set of challenges. Blending two or more cultures can be a rewarding experience for both us, and our children, but it also requires a certain level of understanding, patience, and open-mindedness.



In this blog post, I want to discuss the importance of honoring and preserving the cultural heritage of both parents in a multicultural family and the best ways to pass on these traditions to the children. I'll share tips and strategies for successfully navigating the challenges of multicultural parenting and how to incorporate both cultures into daily family life.


Having a father figure from another ethnicity has enabled me to adapt to different perspectives early on, being less judgmental and more open-minded.

As someone who grew up in a multicultural family myself, I understand the unique challenges and rewards that come with blending two or more cultures. My stepfather (who passed away two years ago) was of Moroccan origin. From a young age, I was exposed to both the Swiss and Moroccan cultures, and I always enjoyed having another, non-Swiss reference point in my life. Of course, it went way beyond the delicious Moroccan food and peppermint tea. Having a father figure from another ethnicity has enabled me to adapt to different perspectives early on, being less judgmental and more open-minded. I appreciate the value of giving room to both cultures and traditions in a mixed family and understand how enriching it can be to grow up with cultural diversity.


So how do we raise our children as Swiss and Igbo parents, and what is the best way to preserve the cultural heritage of both parents?


Communicate openly with your partner

Early on, Ezewna and I agreed that it is important that our children get the best of both worlds. And we agree that one of the most important things for us is to communicate openly with each other. We make sure to have open and honest conversations about our respective cultural backgrounds, values, and traditions. By understanding each other's perspectives, we can make informed decisions about how to raise our children.


Celebrate both cultures

Another important aspect for us is to celebrate both cultures. By doing so, we introduce our children to the richness of their heritage. This includes teaching them about traditional holidays, customs, and foods. Our children are as used to eating "Ofe Nsala" as they are eating "Raclette." They have celebrated Christmas in the Snow skiing as they have experienced the running from Mmanwu in Isuofia. Neither of these experiences is judged "better" than the other; it is simply an exposure to more than one type of food, more than one traditional holiday, and more than one custom. Giving room for both makes them understand that each culture is valid and beautiful in its way and that they can count themselves blessed to belong to both.



Encourage bilingualism

Ezenwa and I are very intentional when it comes to bilingualism in our family. While I speak only Swiss German to the children, Ezenwa talks to them in Igbo. We have motivated them to learn and speak both languages since they were little because we strongly believe that this helps them not only to communicate with extended family members but will make them understand the cultures even better. And if you are afraid that speaking more than one language could confuse your children, let me add that research has shown that growing up bilingual or multilingual can have several cognitive and social benefits. These benefits include:

  • Improved cognitive flexibility: Bilingual children tend to be better at switching between tasks and can more easily adapt to new situations.

  • Enhanced problem-solving skills: Bilingual children are better at solving problems that require mental flexibility and divergent thinking.

  • Increased attentional control: Bilingual children have been shown to have better attentional control, allowing them to filter out distractions and stay focused on the task at hand.

  • Improved memory: Bilingual children tend to have better memory skills, including working memory, which is important for tasks such as reading and math.

  • Enhanced executive function: Bilingual children have been shown to have better executive function, which includes cognitive processes such as planning, organizing, and paying attention to multiple sources of information.

  • Greater cultural awareness: Bilingual children tend to have a greater understanding of different cultures and can navigate different cultural contexts more easily.

  • Greater career opportunities: Bilingual individuals are in high demand in today's globalized workforce, and being able to speak multiple languages can open up more job opportunities.



Be respectful of others

Raising children in a multicultural family requires open-mindedness and understanding from both parents. While we strive for consensus, there may be times when a compromise cannot be reached. In these situations, it's essential to respect the other parent's perspective and set a positive example for our children by not making assumptions or reinforcing stereotypes about other cultures. Ezenwa and I make sure to approach these challenges with an open mindset and the willingness to learn more about the other's traditions and customs, providing a positive and enriching upbringing for our children.



Be flexible

Lastly, we strive to be flexible in our approach to parenting. Raising children in a multicultural family means being open to change and being willing to adapt to new situations. This could include incorporating new traditions or finding ways to celebrate both cultures.



I could go on and on writing about this topic and give examples of how we try to incorporate the best of both worlds into our everyday life for the benefit of our children. But in the end, I think it comes down to the fact that raising children in a multicultural family requires patience, understanding, and a willingness to adapt and learn. By celebrating both cultures, encouraging bilingualism, respecting others, and being flexible, we as parents can help our children navigate the unique challenges and opportunities of growing up in a multicultural family.


Last but not least

I decided always to end my blog posts with an Igbo proverb or quote and a song (not necessarily Igbo) that speaks to my heart. Feel free to share your favorite proverbs or a song you are currently listening to!


Igbo quote of the week: "Obodo n'ezu ezu azu nwa" – It takes a whole village to raise a child.

My song this week: Onye mere nwa nebe akwa (Nnanyereugo's number 1 lullaby)



Disclaimer

This blog is neither scientific research nor a social study; instead, it is written with much appreciation for the Igbo culture, from the subjective perspective of the author, based on personal experience. Generalizations must be read with care, as no truth is true for everyone. And most importantly, this blog is to be read with a smile and a pinch of salt (or pepper in this context)



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