LATINO VOICES
08/22/2013 05:50 pm ET Updated Aug 25, 2013

Raising Children To Be Proud Of Their Roots By Encouraging Latino Culture At Home

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When we move from our native countries to America, we do it in order to achieve a better future and to have better life opportunities for us and our children. However, even if we are far from our homeland, we have the urge to cherish all those traditions that shaped us and we also feel responsible for transmitting them to our children.

Eliana Tardío, Family Resource Specialist for the Early Steps program and Hispanic diversity support blogger, says:

“Encouraging Latin culture in children is not only important, but imperative. Culture is the sum of values, beliefs, and behaviors we have grown up with and that we transmit to our children when raising them. Migrating to another country must not change our cultural foundation, it can be adjusted, but it should never disappear; that’s why it is important to give our children the opportunity to know where they come from, so that they can identify the need of belonging to our community as they grow up.”

However, we know as parents it isn’t always easy to make our children feel the same love we feel for our roots and sometimes, as they are influenced by so many different nationalities, this becomes an even bigger challenge. Tardío comments: “Education is the key of success in every aspect of our lives, and culture is no exception. When we educate them on who we are and where we come from, we empower them as proud Hispanics. With Spanish as our first language at home, we provide them with an extra tool for success. We are role models as working immigrants that contribute to the United States of America, a great motivator to strengthen the pride of their Hispanic origins.”

Our specialist also said:

“We spread our Hispanic pride by example. Prejudice often begins at home, when we avoid speaking Spanish so that our children don’t feel rejected for speaking with an accent or when we give up our identity, misconceiving they will be accepted by doing so. The love for their roots cannot be inherited, it is instead taught, and it is necessary to nurture that feeling at a young age by talking, sharing and showing that diversity is an advantage that allows them to learn from everybody else.”

Tardío recommends the following in order to help parents strengthen their cultural heritage in their children:

• Talking and speaking in Spanish: “The best way is by speaking Spanish all the time and not letting children reply in English. Many children understand Spanish perfectly, but they don’t speak Spanish because they have never been forced to improve it. Not doing this will deprive our children of a great opportunity in the future.

• Celebrating our traditions and involve our children when celebrating national holidays and special occasions celebrated in our countries: “I have always believed that our home is our great cultural environment as Hispanics, and the streets are our direct relationship with the country that has embraced us. We should foster our cultural background without forgetting that our children were born here and are both Hispanic and American; therefore, they need to be bicultural in order to successfully be part of both cultures, following the rules established in this country without losing their identity.”

• Letting your children know their roots: Whether it is by annual visits to our native country, by telephone or on the Internet, or by hosting our relatives, we need to “…integrate them into our extended family, making use of technology and its benefits.”

• Encouraging them to become leaders in their communities, using homework as a way of showing their roots, thus educating everyone else: “By example, preparing a traditional dish at their school’s food fair, or presenting their country’s unique wonders.” She adds, “being bilingual has given me the opportunity and satisfaction of developing diversity projects that have enabled people around me to understand and learn about our unique Hispanic identity.”

• Tardío also emphasizes the importance of children learning about their culture in order to gain self-awareness: “I believe that our identity is a powerful feeling that strengthens self-esteem. A person without a clear identity will, unfortunately, not develop a strong self-esteem. We can’t love what we are if we don’t know who we are and where we come from.”

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