Is Language Enough When Raising Bicultural Kids?

The arrival of the newest member of our family is on the horizon, and I have anxieties just like any expecting mom. However, most of mine have nothing to do with balancing time with each kid, getting through sleepless nights, or making sure the baby is eating well. Strangely, I am most concerned about culture.

Although my son and stepdaughters can be considered bilingual, I am not sure they could accurately be called bicultural. My husband’s family expresses Salvadoran and Puerto Rican roots in the sense that they speak Spanish and eat traditional Latin foods. Beyond that, there is not much going on in the way of holidays, music, or traditions. They are fairly Americanized, which makes it difficult to present an authentic heritage to a child.

I know that I can incorporate the great resources from SpanglishBaby, such as apps, movies, crafts, and activities, into daily life with my new son, but it’s hard to envision this successfully creating a true understanding of where his family came from. Besides, the fact that I was raised in a white American household means that I can’t even understand or assume Latin culture to its fullest extent, so I’m not sure that my influence will mean as much as it would if it came from a relative with firsthand knowledge of the people and places that contribute to their culture.

Authenticity seems to be of utmost importance in my mind, but perhaps I’m wrong. I don’t want to manufacture a culture that isn’t true to who we are as family, but I also don’t want any of our kids to miss out on the opportunity to discover their roots and participate in enriching traditions. Aside from making an extra effort to plan international trips in the future and interacting with grandparents a significant amount, I’m at a loss as to what I should do (if anything).

I wonder if speaking Spanish is the best and only way I can be a model of cultural diversity for the baby. After all, kids learn more from our consistent behaviors than our overblown efforts to make them absorb anything.

Is language enough? Do our kids need all the other elements of culture or can bilingualism provide enough benefits?

{Photo by cliff1066™}

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