"Your family is unique. Acknowledge it and express it, do not try to fit into a mould of marriage/family of either of your cultures or backgrounds. Seek out your own family identify. Yet, it is very good to hear how others are doing I this path - search for supportive community. Don't stay alone."
“What would I do differently? I would relax more and just enjoy my small kids, and not take everything too seriously. If I had another chance I would just laugh about the petty things, which seemed so important then, and just enjoy that time more.”
COUPLES IN THIS SECTION
Throughout this course, we have tried to mention and then elaborate on a number of the fundamental building blocks of a happy and well-adjusted intercultural family. By reading the information and taking part in the homework assignments, as well as hearing what other parents have had to say, we hope you have gained more insight and understanding of the journey which lies ahead. Below is a brief summary of the main points included in the course, which is followed by a number of useful websites and links to articles on the subject. If you are interested in building upon the issues raised throughout, a list of Duo’s activities can be found at the end of this theme and on their website. In the meantime, we wish you and your family all the very best now and in the future!
“It is important for both of you to think about (and list) the most important things that you wish to pass on to your child from your culture. In addition to identifying these, spend time discussing the practical ways of reaching these targets. It helps for both of you to try and get familiar with your spouse's culture habits in terms of a child/family.”
Perhaps the most pertinent point raised during the course is the concept of communication. Speaking to your partner and discussing the joys and challenges you will face together is crucial when it comes to both raising a child and building a strong relationship. Of course your life and relationship will change once you become parents, but finding the time to tell each other about how you are feeling means that you can deal with issues early and in a constructive way. By keeping the lines of communication open, you can build a strong and secure family unit that is able to talk to each other no matter the subject.
“Relax, talk about things like who will speak which language. Agree to take things as they come and that when some cultural differences occur to then sit down and discuss things.”
BILINGUALISM FROM AN EARLY AGE
Bilingualism (and multilingualism) is such a wonderful gift, so cherish it and ensure that both languages are valued and taken into consideration. Bilingualism is not just a skill that you learn, but an enriching lifestyle. As we discussed, it is natural for your child to learn your native tongue, but you must work hard to ensure it happens and pay extra attention to the minority language. Any kind of positive exposure will help, from books, television and stories to communicating with your family. It is up to you as parents to take the initiative and implement the language structure as early as possible. Remember that it is never too early to discuss how you will deal with each aspect of your child’s development, so talk about it often and in detail so that both of you are on the same page.
“Remember to rely on and respect each other, even if you might have very different backgrounds. Be kind to each other and try to understand a completely opposing opinion. If you are able to discuss matters in a peace way, it is possible to be successful.”
SUPPORT EACH OTHER
Your greatest ally is your partner and she/he is the only other person in the world who cares about your child as much as you do. Therefore, support each other as you embark on this wonderful journey together and share the happy times as well as the more challenging moments. Being in a happy and stable relationship will also rub off on your children, as the example you set for them, in terms of how you treat each other, will become their benchmark for the future relationships they conduct. Not only that, but knowing you have someone who will support you throughout parenthood may make everything that little bit less stressful.
“Be more patient, understanding, kind and open-hearted. However, I feel it's more important to try to do this in the future rather than thinking back on what I could have done differently then.”
STRONG FAMILY UNIT
A strong family unit can give a child the safety and comfort to break out of their comfort zone and try new things, as they know their family will be right behind them. There are many different ways to create a family which can withstand anything, but, like everything else, it requires hard work, a plan and parents who are in agreement. It helps if you have considered and discussed this before your child’s birth, but of course you cannot prepare for everything any more than you can anticipate everything. There will be surprises and unexpected events, but that is life and for as long as you and your partner work as a team you can handle anything life might throw at you… and rest assured, most of it will be wonderful!
“For new couples, take care of each other and ask for help if needed. Children are very precious things, what you do with them will affect their whole lives. Be kind, never cruel, have patience and love - one hug is more important than all the toys in world.”
LOVE AND CHERISH YOUR FAMILY
Having a child is one of the best adventures you can ever embark on - you get to create a life, watch it develop and flourish, and see as it grows into an entirely independent being. Take the time to cherish them as your baby will not be young forever and will one day leave home. Allow yourself time to reflect on the good times and learn from the bad, as every experience will make you stronger and a better parent. By loving and being honest with your spouse and children, your relationship will also flourish and this, as mentioned previously, is the cornerstone of a happy and well-adjusted family.
“It´s good to plan things together, expectations can vary if you come from different backgrounds (culture or otherwise). To talk about the name of the baby, the meaning of religion in your family, the roles being a parent, how was your own family when you grow up, what you want/or not want to continue from your own culture/background. Your family will not be like your own in the childhood and not also like your partners family, you can build just your own combination of habits and traditions. To become a family it takes some time, be patient and ask for help for taking care of the baby and house chores.”
As you are no doubt aware, raising a child is a lifelong commitment, but one which brings joy after joy. Throughout the process of being a parent you will learn a lot about both yourself and your spouse, and all of these lessons can be put to good use as you strive to be a better partner and parent. As a parent, you have the honour of teaching your child about the many facets of life and can offer them the very best foundation from which to leave home and become an adult. As an intercultural parent, you can add to this journey in so many constructive ways, from the joys of language and culture to the ability to interact and communicate with a vast range of different people and nationalities. These gifts should not be underestimated and the impact they have on your child’s life will quickly become evident.
- Homework 9.1. Conclusion (PDF)