Teaching Your Kids About Their Rich Hispanic Heritage

BlogHer Original Post

Latina women have a rich Hispanic heritage that we want to impart to our children. Whether it's sharing food traditions, speaking Spanish, or choosing a name that will help a bicultural child feel as if she belongs everywhere she goes, new mothers need help navigating how to bring Hispanic culture to their children. And Lorraine Ladish's crib sheet does just that.

Download the Hispanic Heritage crib sheet to follow along.

What to Name the Kids

Reading Lorraine's thoughts on choosing a name was interesting because it reminded me of my mother's experiences. She grew so tired of people butchering her name that she legally changed it to a more American-friendly version. I love her given name, but can understand her frustration.

I am of Dominican and Chinese descent, and my husband was born to a Caucasian mother and African-American father. Our children's cultural backgrounds are diverse, and we don't know what they will choose to identify as in the future. We picked names that sounded good with Armstrong, would look nice on a plaque in an executive boardroom, and one wasn't likely to hear called in a prison or courtroom. We're practical people.

We figured playing it safe with names wouldn't hurt anyone. Also, my husband kept ruling out my awesome ideas -- like Max Power for my son and Rio for my daughter. It's a personal decision and not one to take lightly, but in this instance, since my husband and I are of different cultural backgrounds we chose good, old-fashioned, American-sounding names: Cameron & Preston.

When to Use Spanish and When to Use English

I agree with Lorraine: It is important to speak both languages to your child. I struggled with this when my children were younger. My husband is bilingual, but is fluent in German. I am not. He understands and can speak a little Spanish, but not enough to carry on a full conversation.

I didn't have family close by and wasn't accustomed to speaking Spanish at home. The only time I would speak Spanish was on the phone with family, and a little when they visited. My children heard it, but not as often as I would have liked.

Definitely make an effort to speak Spanish around your child. Make it a habit, and it will eventually flow naturally. It's three years later, and I am getting better at it.

Read to Them in Spanish

Lorraine read to both of her children in Spanish from the beginning. I started a little later, since my first born didn't care much for listening to me read until he was about two. My daughter always loved being read to. Most of their books are in English, but they have a handful in Spanish.

Something I've always done is when using flash cards, I'd tell them the word in English and Spanish. The kids looked at me funny at first, but my three-year-old knows a bit and understands that Spanish is a different language that Mommy uses when on the phone with his Grandma. He can count and name colors and simple objects in Spanish.

It's wonderful hearing your child speak in your native tongue, and kids love the intellectual challenge. Make it fun for them. Choose books based on their current interests to draw them in, even if at first they don't understand exactly what you're saying. Oh, and Dora is a good babysitter if you need a few minutes to yourself. Just sayin'.

Show Your Kids Photos

I can't wait to show my kids the pictures of my parents in the Dominican Republic shortly after they were married. I'd like to find some of me as a child, too.

I spent a lot of time in my parents' native country, and am a photography fanatic. Pictures are hugely important and essential to preserving your family memories of cultural traditions. Show them all the photos you can.

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