Raising Multicultural Children- focus on the Tween years
By Jai Koch, Miami Beach
Raising multicultural children can seem like a daunting task for us busy parents. It doesn’t have to be that way. Sharing culture with your Tween can be as simple as singing a lullaby, reading stories, or sharing a recipe. My husband is from Austria and we both decided before our children were born that we wanted them to speak German and have an understanding of my husband’s culture. The key to success in this is a strong commitment from both parents, and consistency.
A good way to begin introducing your culture to your children is through song. Music is universally enjoyed and it can be a fun and easy way to share your language and traditions. In my family we sing our children lullabies at bedtime, but my husband sings the German ones he grew up with, and I sing the traditional ones I knew as a child. You can even get the grandparents in on it too! My mother is from Thailand, and she sings to them in Thai when they sleep over her house. We also enjoy singing Christmas carols during Advent, but the twist is we sing them in German. Keeping it fun and engaging for our Tweens is the best way to ensure their cooperation and continued interest.
Folklore and fairytales are another fantastic way to get the attention of your little ones. Most children love a good story, and if they are being raised multilingual the stories can be read in native languages. Most countries have their own distinct legends and myths that will be new and interesting to them. Children love hearing stories about us as well, especially during the Tween years when they start to relate more directly to us. Our childhoods are fascinating to them. Let them know what your favorite stories were as a child and some of the things you enjoyed doing.
Cooking is an activity that so many children enjoy, especially tweens. It is something that the whole family can do together, and it is also one of the most common ways to share a culture. Food is typically very unique and varied by country or even by region. Use mealtime as a showcase for the delicacies of your homeland, but don’t stop there. Take the time to explore the history behind the food. Oftentimes there is a story to how a particular type of food evolved, and it can also be a fun activity to do this research with your children. At this age they are so inquisitive.
It is never too late to bring culture into your children’s lives. The world is so much smaller with the advances we have made in technology. Use the internet to visit foreign web pages, have your tween view their favorite websites in a foreign language, or video chat with family members abroad. There may be times when your tweens seem disinterested in learning the lessons you are trying to teach them. This is where your commitment must be strong! Don’t back down and they will eventually come to understand that this is as much a part of their lives as everything else they are accustomed to. Change can be hard sometimes, but I believe the end result will enrich their lives beyond measure. Whatever method you choose, don’t delay in sharing your valuable heritage and traditions with your family.
Jai Koch resides in Miami Beach with her family, Maia (9) and Lukas (7). Her husband Sebastian is Austrian and Jai was born in Miami of Thai, Italian and Irish descent.
As a mother of twin tweens in 2011 and an active Girl Scout Troop leader, Cristy realized there was a need to develop bilingual digital content and foster a community facing the challenges of raising kids after first grade. That year she founded and remains co-Publisher of Los Tweens & Teens, to support multicultural parents and mentors with content related to raising Gen Z- tweens & teens ages 7-18. Through the Los Tweens & Teens LIVE events such as Teens & Me – the growing team aims to provide our community with essential resources from chats with therapists to battle anxiety and bullying, to understanding social media and technology.