During the first three years of life, a baby transitions from complete physical dependence to independence with a majority of basic self-help and motor skill. At around three-years-old, the toddler will begin to develop imaginations and language skills. Keep in mind that every child grows and develops at a different pace, and each child carries different personalities; Having said that, I believe the lessons and challenges we encounter as multicultural families are different according to the parenting styles and kid’s character.
This article is about the experience I have to learn in raising an under three-year-old toddler as a multicultural family. I am a third culture kid and have a close affiliation with various places. At the same time, my husband, Daniel, grew up in a Brazilian- Catalan mixed culture environment, we have two beautiful multicultural kids. If having two people interacting with each other for an extended period will experience tension, imagine how challenging it can be to have two different sets of cultural beliefs to raise kids together.
In general, there is not much difference in raising a toddler in a multicultural family. For the most part, we are educating our children to do the right thing and develop self-care at this stage of their life.
FOUR Challenged Faced Raising a Toddler
Language has always been a challenge for us since my families speak different languages. My native language is Mandarin, and my husband Daniel speaks Portuguese and Catalan. Daniel and I use English to communicate in between us. After our children are born, we have to spend in-depth research on how to raise a multilingual child? English, Mandarin, Portuguese, Spanish, and Catalan – We seek professional advice throughout the process.
We understand that multilingual children may experience speech delays in their language development and conversational skills. But as first-time parents, we do not know how to define delay? Throughout the early development process, we are also always guessing if she understands what we are trying to communicate or if she feels confused. We were in doubt about all the techniques we were implementing, such as one parent one language.
The lesson is children do not become multilingual by “magic.” Yes, in the right circumstances, children will naturally grow up to acquire family languages, but the parents need to practice it consistently and patiently. “Magic” appears after my multilingual kid sorts out her “language department,” then she will begin to communicate and respond to command in multiple different languages.
Two parenting cultures – EAST vs. WEST
It is uneasy for multicultural couples to adapt to different cultures, understand their beliefs and norms. Therefore, raising multicultural kids with two sets of parenting cultures create conflicts naturally.
For example, most Taiwanese will visit a doctor for simple flu. As a first time Taiwanese mom, I feel more comfortable sending kids to the doctor when they are feeling ill and also making sure to receive doctor notes to end the medicine. In short, I prefer processional advice under these circumstances. On the other hand, my husband feels like children are strong enough to fight minor symptoms without medicine, and it is not necessary to visit the doctor.
The hygiene standard is another interesting point. Baby will reach the oral exploration stage at one point, which means putting everything in the mouth; Taiwanese parents are mostly aware of hand wash and try to cultivate a good habit of cleanliness. On the other hand, my husband recommends me to let loose as most germs can stimulate the immune system and is beneficial for children. You can picture me trying to clean every toy that drops on the floor while my husband is rolling his eyes.
Adapting parenting rules is often challenging in a multicultural family. One of my favorite things about Brazilian culture is passion and friendliness. It’s so easy for my husband to strike up a conversation anywhere with anyone. He is passionate about people’s stories and appreciates such social skills; In Taiwan, children are taught not to speak with strangers, accept their food and of course, not to follow them. I have to address my growing concern to my husband that the children may interpret that it is fine to speak with strangers.
I have a more Asian parenting style, focused more on manner and discipline. On the other hand, my husband has a more layback western parenting style. In a multicultural family, we need to measure and get through our cultural conflicts to work things out.
Finding the Value and balance
We were in Tainan City before moving to Spain, where most of my family lives, and my husband’s family is rather far away. We participate in my family’s event, follow their rules and traditions. However, my husband and I begin to realize that the influence between the two families is out of balance.
Many questions pop up when we first started the conversation about this particular issue. Wouldn’t it be better to live closer to grandparents? Should we leave our primary support system and start a life somewhere else? Maybe moving to Spain is a good idea?
The biggest lesson I take away from this is to pull myself out of the situation and ask myself what kind of family I would like to create? It is very easy to get “stuck in” a comfortable situation without making any changes. So we have set our family goals, and move to Spain to find out family identity.
Food of interest
my older daughter has demonstrated a preference for western food while my younger daughter prefers Asian cuisine, such as more rice and noodle. Choosing food at home is a very interesting time of the day.
When my daughter turned 6 to 8 months, which is also an appropriate timing to introduce solid food, I remember becoming very stressed about what kind of ingredient to select, what recipe to prepare in order to develop an “international taste.” I searched for online courses, and YouTube videos, some of the ingredients are even hard to find.
I spend time debating over “Chinese chicken soup” or “western chicken soup.” as a result, my older daughter still turns out to be one of the pickiest eaters.
After having my second child, I learn to take things lighter and allow her to experiment with any “safe” and “suitable” food, stopped trying to categorize cuisine. The most critical adjustment here is I have changed my approach, instead of trying to prepare a perfect authentic cuisine, I have learned to connect with the ingredients, and choose seasonal foods, which is usually cheaper. I train my kids’ taste bud according to the recipe I’ve created without feeling stress.
I want to end this by saying that the experience has been incredible. A multicultural family is also like every other family. We want the best for our children and always seeking opportunities for the family to grow together. No matter what challenges we face, the family will overcome it together.