Culture is a big part of who you are as an individual, and when you’re part of a multicultural family, different cultural beliefs can impact your decision making.
First things first, it’s important to see the beauty within a multicultural family. Intertwined into a bright, beautiful and colourful tapestry, a multicultural family paints a stunning picture of diversity. A multicultural family provides an enlightening adventure for kids, exposing them to a range of different customs and traditions.
The second thing to remember is many same-culture couples clash over parenting styles too, and that it’s not a problem unique to a multicultural family. One parent may be firm and consistent, the other soft and indecisive.
One parent may thrive in a spontaneous household, while another may rely heavily on routine. Parenting styles generally lay dormant until a child comes along, so you never really know how you’re going to manage things as parents until you’ve become them.
Flexibility and kinship
Culturally embedded beliefs and expectations naturally filter through to your parenting. Specific examples of parenting influenced by ethnotheories include gender expectations, child care arrangements, and the physical and social experiences of a child, such as the number of people living in a household.
Sleeping arrangements, the amount of physical contact with a child, different aspects of feeding and discipline can also be influenced by culture and custom settings.
When your parenting styles differ from that of your partners, it can be frustrating and destructive at worst. It creates dissonance and distance between partners, and confusion among kids. Unfortunately, our styles are largely instinctual and unconscious, based on how we were raised and what we observed ourselves as children. Unconscious behaviour can be tricky to switch off.
At best, you can learn how dissimilarities can be complementary and that they don’t have to spell disaster. Different styles can help prepare a child for a world of negotiating various types of people, so “different” doesn’t need to mean better or worse. Balance and communication is the key, as is teaching the value of a multicultural background.
What happens when grandparents get involved?
Data from the Raising Modern Australia report reveals that 12.3% of grandparents say they have disagreed with the maternal grandparents or the paternal grandparents of their grandchildren about the best way to raise children.
If your parents or in-laws have different cultural expectations they can’t help but force upon you, it can put a strain on the relationship you have with your partner. It’s important to communicate your concerns, so it doesn’t become a catalyst for tension in your household.
If your children’s grandparents are from a different culture than you, they may have different ideas about discipline, child development, who looks after children, sleeping arrangements, feeding and the amount of time you spend with your children. If grandparents are a big part of your kids’ lives, this can be confusing to your children..
When faced with culturally different grandparents, try:
- Talking to them about your concerns. Explain that while you respect they might think differently, it’s important your children feel secure in their surroundings. If children are being given mixed messages, it can be unsettling.
- Addressing any conflict after 24 hours. Flaring up immediately is too soon to react, but leaving a discussion too long makes the problem seem irrelevant. Sleep on it to decide if something is truly an issue and then discuss if it is.
- Find creative ways for grandparents to instill their cultural beliefs without it impacting your parenting. Encourage cultural storytelling, speak to your children in more than one language, eat traditional food and celebrate culturally special occasions. If grandparents feel part of them is being shared, they’ll be less inclined to inflict their parenting views.
- Supporting your partner and letting family members know you have discussed an issue and agreed on what is best for your child.
- Instilling your own values in your children and talking to them about what you believe is important. Explain the differences in culture and that it’s okay to not always see eye to eye.
Continually remind grandparents of their importance and let them know you value the good things they bring to the family dynamic. Cultural differences are common, and communication really is the key to overcoming these differences.