Do you feel your kid is more German than Indian, more French than Filipino, more Italian than Nigerian, more British than Thai, or more European than Chinese?
Do you also struggle to translate communication between your child/ren and your parents during family reunions? Because they speak another language, which is different from your own mother tongue?
This is one of the many aspects of being a migrant, which you can probably relate to. Maybe you are a migrant mom/father who is married to a local or you and your partner have the same cultural backgrounds, yet your child was born in the country you are working in.
While all migrant parents undergo the process of acculturation, there is a high chance that your child/ren is/are enculturated — meaning they grow and adapt firstly to the culture of the country, where the family is living and the culture of their migrant parent/s comes as a secondary.
So how do we as migrant parent/s inculcate our own culture into our kids’ lives while growing in a country they consider their home country? Here are some tips that could help.
Decide on the first language your kids are going to use.
Whether you would use your mother language or the local language at home, you need to decide from the beginning, which language will be used at home. This is important, so the kids would know to segment that at home they need to use the mother language of their parents and the local language in school, kindergarten, and public places.
Calling your kids in words of endearment using your mother language.
Calling your kids with your mother tongue’s terms of endearment is a sweet way to encourage kids to love your mother language. It is like a secret language with your kids. Flourish it with good memories. You may call them pet names that express fondness and familiarity in your own language.
Avoid associating the language with negativity.
Sometimes we tend to use the mother language with words that connect with discipline, which in most cases, could be misinterpreted as something strict or in some cases restricting. There is nothing wrong with giving your kids proper discipline, yet in every culture, forms of discipline could vary, hence it could be misinterpreted by the country’s culture you are living in.
Use the language to connect to them
We all love our kids, but sometimes it is difficult to connect especially if we cannot express ourselves in a language that we as parents consider as foreign. This is quite tricky depending on the children’s ages, their phases and of course, their love languages. I used Tagalog/English books to connect with my kids according to their interests. If it is still vague to them, I try to translate it into German so I can fully connect with them.
FUN TIP: Translating by singing is a fun way to connect with younger kids.
Patience and consistency are rewarding
Being consistent on the language your kids could be taxing, you may feel that there is no point in using it. Be patient about it, even if they tell you that the other language is boring or not as interesting as the language they use in school. In their later years or when they are learning a foreign language in school, it will boost their confidence and interest because they heard it all the time and have the advantage of growing up multilingual.
Being a migrant has its own set of challenges — language, cultural integration among others, is just the tip of the iceberg. There are intrinsic layers of a migrant face every day. Discussing it and putting it out there is one opportunity to connect with fellow fearless global wanderers and realize that we have, after all, something in common.