Episode 41: Strategies to help you navigate multicultural and multiethnic family relationships with Harriet Cannon

Episode 41

On this episode of Bilingual Avenue, I interview Harriet Cannon, a licensed marriage and family therapist with over 25 years of experience and co-author of the book titled Mixed Blessings: A Guide to Multicultural and Multiethnic Relationships.  Harriet shares the joys and challenges that a couple may experience when raising multilingual children and strategies to navigate these relationships.

 Episode #41 Quick Guide

On this episode, Harriet discusses with us:

  • Her passion for bilingual parenting coming from her own experience of living in Chile and moving back to the United States after six years;
  • How this experience made her appreciate what it means to live as a bilingual and bicultural family;
  • The joys a couple may experience when negotiating bilingual parenting;
  • How children that grow up a bilingual family tend to also feel very comfortable in more than one culture;
  • The challenges that come when being part of a multicultural family including:

Culture Loss – anytime you live outside of your home culture or are married with someone who does not share your home culture you are going to always have to give up something to find the middle ground with your partner;

Cultural Grieving – process to manage the culture loss and identify the things that you miss the most from your culture;

Cultural Refueling – finding ways to reconnect with your own culture;

  • The potential presence of a power differential for a multicultural couple;
  • Her recommendation for parents to use the toddler’s years to learn each other’s language;
  • How around 7-9 years old many children become rigid and want to fight in. Harriet has found that this can be a particularly trying time for multilingual families;
  • Suggestions on how to compromise when children resist their family’s differences;
  • The difficulties of the teenage years but also the pride that children at this age may take into their heritage cultures;
  • Her book Mixed Blessings: A Guide to Multicultural and Multiethnic Relationships and what parents may gain from reading through the book;
  • The role the extended family can play and the pressure it can apply on a multicultural marriage;
  • A reminder that most of the criticism parents may receive from the extended family is fear that their culture and language will be lost;
  • How it is best to avoid having delicate family conversations over email or text;
  • The importance of keeping an open line of communication as a couple when facing adversity from outsiders;
  • How to prioritize what to pass on to your children through honesty and triage with your partner;
  • Ideas on how to manage when celebrating cultural traditions that are not shared by all family members;
  • Reassurance that multicultural couples can often have more solid relationships because they have to discuss and work through their differences much more often;
  • The importance of sharing with your children how to negotiate bilingual parenting on why and how the decisions were made;
  • Her advice to keep talking to your partner about your culture loss and what cultural refueling will make it better.

If you want to pick up a copy of Harriet’s book, you can purchase it on Amazon here: Mixed Blessings: A Guide to Multicultural and Multiethnic Relationships.


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