Growing pains x 2

Raising bicultural children


Growing pains x 2
by varjavand

Because of our heavy workload and other time consuming commitments, many of us may not be able, or unwilling, to communicate with our kids effectively or adequately especially earlier in their life. Our children go through different and often difficult stages in their life and managing them effectively is very crucial to their long-term success. That is why we should help our kids in any possible ways so that they can cope with the physical and emotional outbursts they experience especially during the teenage years. Make sure that our kids understand that we, the parents, are not trying to control their life or subject them to excessive restrictions or do anything knowingly to displease them. Our love for them should be unconditional and undivided.

In the meantime, teaching children the importance of responsibility and discipline at home and at school, and elsewhere is important. They may sometimes think that our treatment is harsh or unfair; however, they must be assured that we have their best interest in our heart. They should understand that even though we respect the prevailing culture of this society, we have been raised under a distinct culture and we are so proud of, and sometimes obsessed with, it. We have no doubt that our culture has its good and bad attributes.  We want our children to learn and to respect our values as well as the core values of the American culture.  
Sometimes, when I talk to the parents of some of my bicultural students over the phone, I here a parent at the other end of the line speaking with a heavy accent. Soon, I realize that they have the same difficulties as I do when it comes to raising our kids. Raising bicultural children is quite a formidable challenge. As the immigrant parents, we strive on a daily basis to determine what is acceptable and what is unacceptable for our children. We constantly search for the best way to reconcile the differences between our native culture and the dominant culture in American and to find the feasible methods of assimilation.

There are so many subjective questions, although important, with no objective answers. Finding appropriate responses to these questions is imperative because they influence the future of your children to a great extent.  For instance, should we force our children to speak our native language? Should we teach them authoritatively the values that we believe in? Should we celebrate Christmas? Should we allow them to participate in sleepover? Are we overprotective of our children? Etc.

We should constantly deal with the partially-Americanized children who resist us any time we try to provide them with some guidance or ask them to do something that may sound odd to them because it may not conform to the prevailing norms. If we do not guide them, the television, the classmates, the Internet, and the social clubs will influence them in a way that we may deem inappropriate. If we try to teach them our way of life, they may show no interest or possibly become rebellious. Our advice, however, may serve as medicine, distasteful nevertheless beneficial to their health. We hope when they grow up they realize and appreciate our concerns.  

Understandably, we don’t expect our children to lead exactly the same life style that we have. It will be counterproductive if we try to mold or children, or subject them to excessive restrictions. This will eventually make them defiant and confused. However, we feel obligated to teach them the good values embodied in our culture as well as the good of the American culture (others). We want them to understand, for instance, that there is no sense of inferiority to have one or both parents from another country. Or, it is not embarrassing to speak another language. It is, to the contrary, a distinct advantage. We want them to learn, for instance, that they should acknowledge the presence of other people, instead of ignoring them, by saying hello any time the encounter others. Similarly, they should show respect for their parents and other older people by being responsive to their feelings, or not raising their voice while talking to them.

Some parents may even believe it is necessary to some degree to force them, for example, to learn our native language for many good reasons. It is through learning our language that they can access a wealth of arts, literature, history, traditions, etc. It is the only way they can respect their heritage, their ancestors of whom we are so proud.  Language may also serve to strengthen the bond between parents and their children. They should learn that they can cherish and keep our traditions and believes, through respect and tolerance for those of others.

We expect our children not only to learn our culture but also to be able to defend it and be proud of who they are. To do so, we need to provide them with the intellectual tools, which enable them to explore and to analyze the good values, and to criticize the wrong ones.

We can’t follow our children around 24/7 and check every move they make. The best we can do is to provide them with an aptitude that helps them to distinguish between right and wrong, to assist them to think independently and to make appropriate decisions when a need arises.  As they grow up they choose their own life style and make their own decisions. However, we hope that the values we instilled in them early in their life be part of their lifestyle and their identity.


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K Nassery

Children have a natural curiosity.

by K Nassery on

You don't have to force feed culture  to children. They will pick up the best of both cultures because they see value in both. 

Even if it seems they abandon the Persian/Iranian ways...they will come back as my daughter did recently when she decided to take Iranian foods to her Italian/Hungarian American Inlaws celebration of Easter.  She mentioned that the Iranian recipes....were in her genes.

Share with your children and be open to new adventures.


Mona 19

Dear Varjavand...

by Mona 19 on

...Thank You so much for your beautiful and informative article which I truly enjoyed reading it...Children are the most PRECIOUS TREASURE a community can possess,for in them are the promise and guarentee of the future.They bear the seeds of the character of future society which is shaped by what we do/fail to do...many thanks, and looking forward to read your next article.



Bicultural Kids

by Anonymous N' America (not verified) on

Thanks for your well written article, but you neglected to mention that there are two types of bicultural kids. The first type you mentioned...those with two immigrant parents. I think your article was intended for that audience. The second type of bicultural kid are those with parents from two distint cultures, e.g., those with one Iranian parent and those with one American parent. The challeges faced by the two types of kids and their parents are quite different from one another, but they are significant challenges all the same. Your article did not address those unique challenges faced by the families wherein the parents are from two different countries and cultures. Perhaps, next time you might offer your thoughts one the challenges faced by the second group. Thanks.


Ye speaketh the truth!

by Nadias on

It is has become increasingly more difficult with each new generation to guide our teenage children into adulthood. It is occuring in all ethnic groups as the children are being influenced in a negative way by some of the media and some of their friends.

I think instead of having the children assimilate that acculturation would be better. They should be allowed to take the best from several cultures. Assimilation to me means that they leave their parents culture behind.

I did not force my children to learn my native language. Instead, I explained to them that it was a necessary part for them to better understand our culture. Now, their ability to speak our native language still needs a lot of improvement but at least they are not completely ignorant about it either. In time they can, as adults choose to continue to improve their language skills. At least, I gave them the opportunity to lay down the foundation for further language acquisition.

As parents we do have to understand that the teenagers are going through a very difficult time in their lives. They are in the process of transition from child to adult. They are trying to find out what it is they like and believe.

Yes, I too hope that my sons remember all the good that I have taught them. Also, that they decide to retain some of our cultural values. Especially, that they remember how much I love them which I tell them often (Just incase).

varjavand most excellent article and topic.

Solh va Doosti (paz a vosotros)