Two-language family? Stress not required!

Last week I had the opportunity to speak with a group of parents raising bilingual and bicultural children. Most of the parents were Spanish speaking, but there were a few that were English speakers. So, during my presentation, I went back and forth between the two languages. It was actually great practice for me, though I have to admit that there was some Spanglish caught up in some sentences! LOL. ¿Hay que tener sentido del humor, no?

One of the parents, a Latina mom who grew up with English as her first language, shared her experience as the mother of a 4 year old that she is trying to raise bilingual. “My Spanish is not as strong, and sometimes I get frustrated when having conversations with my daughter about a complex subject. I feel like the words in Spanish don’t come out as easily, and I feel like I am failing her.” How many of us have felt like this mom?

We as parents tend to be our biggest critics and we strive for perfection as much as we can because we want our children to know we are working hard and we want to be a good example. But, the reality is, it is OK for children to know we don’t have all the answers all of the time! It is ok for children to know we don’t know it all! But, that we are willing to find the answers when we don’t have them. As parents, accepting our own limitations and our own imperfections help our children understand that if it is ok for mami y papi to not be perfect, it is ok for them as well. It should all be about the effort! ¡El esfuerzo tiene más valor que el tener las palabras correctas todo el tiempo!


What did I say to the mom that feels frustrated with her language fluency? “Don’t stress!! It is supposed to be a fun journey, not a stressful one. Consistent yes, but not stressful! Your daughter will pick up on your disappointment and will take your cue on that.

Instead, smile, admit you don’t know that one word in Spanish but that you will find it and will share it with her next time. Explain things as best as you can. That is all you can do!” I also suggested they look up the word or words in the Spanish dictionary together.

Here are some tips to help you in your language journey at home:

-Develop a language plan

-It takes a village – Involve family, friends, and teachers

-Make it FUN

-Provide language opportunities – Books, magazines, newspapers, music, food, play-dates, and cultural activities

-Use technology as a resource – apps, games, movies, YouTube

-Keep an open mind, communicate, share, and listen

-Ask for help – talk to other parents, teachers, and friends

-Stick to the plan 

Let’s continue the conversation. Let me know if there is a specific topic related to raising bilingual or multilingual children that you want me to address in a future post.

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Bai Bai,