I didn’t realize my son was biracial until he was 20 months old and my husband said it out loud. I am a U.S. citizen, who grew up listening to *NSYNC and Britney Spears while watching programs like Saved by the Bell and Full House on cable. However, my first language is Spanish, I never had a S’more until I moved to Cincinnati and I don’t understand most of the American sayings. This is because I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory. As a Puerto Rican, I am considered to have a different race from my husband’s, who was born and raised in Knoxville, TN.
Once I found out we were expecting, I started researching about raising a bilingual child. Being bilingual opened so many doors for me that I was determined to do the same for our son. However, even though the language is very important when raising a Hispanic & American child, with time I’ve come to realize that there are other things that are also important and can help us raise bicultural children. Before I jump into these, I want to clarify that my son is being raised in Northern Kentucky and will be exposed to the American culture daily which is why I’m focusing on how to maintain the Puerto Rican culture in our household and my son’s life.
- Different Upbringing – It can be hard but you have to accept that your child will have a different childhood than the one you had. Possibly in a different country, surrounded with people that might look and speak differently and that’s ok. The sooner you realize this, the sooner you can start moving past it and start implementing ways to keep your culture prevalent at home.
- Language – As I previously mentioned, this is one of my priorities. There are many ways for raising bilingual children but we decided to implement the OPOL Method. This method is the most commonly used and it promotes that one person speaks one language. In our house, I speak Spanish to our son while my husband speaks to him in English. Even though he’s not fluent yet, all the professionals that we have talked to confirm this is the best way to do it.
- Friends & Family – We have surrounded ourselves with people that are from both cultures. They help us celebrate both Latino and US holidays, giving us the opportunity to expose our son to cultural stories, traditional foods, and folkloric music. I love the diversity all of our friends and family bring into our lives and I know that having Spanish speaking or Hispanic role models will help our son appreciate his background.
- Education – We use books, TV shows, songs, and games that help with language and cultural exposure. A lot of the popular books that you can get for babies and toddlers have a Spanish version. I personally like Buenas Noches Luna (Goodnight Moon), ¿Donde está el ombliguito? (Where is baby’s belly button?) and any of the Bright Baby/Bebé Listo series. Also, the Cincinnati/NKY area offers a variety of classes and events that can help your child gain this exposure from others. A few options for little ones are Spanish Play Dates, The Cincinnati Spanish School & Academy and Family Spanish Time.
As the author of Arroz con Pollo and Apple Pie, Maritere Rodriguez, says in her book, “It is up to us to help our kids accept their bicultural identity and reach a balance that honors the best of both worlds.” If you are in a similar situation, I recommend you do some research, come up with your own set of priorities and have fun!