Bicultural Families:
How Bicultural Families Make It Work

Parents of bicultural children face the challenge of helping their children find their niche in mainstream America, while simultaneously imparting their distinctive culture and traditions. Here are some examples of how they do it:

• Michaela Erickson hopes her three children grow up as comfortable in their skins as she did as a biracial child.

“It wasn’t until I was in college that I discovered some people didn’t like me because of my skin color,” says the daughter of an African-American woman and a white father. In retrospect, she realizes that her mother had protected her by refusing to let race be an issue. “My parents never defined people by race. It wasn’t much of an issue at our house.”

• Christina Ziino nourishes her daughters’ sense of their Italian heritage in the kitchen. Ziino, who learned to cook her grandmother’s Sicilian recipes when her two teenage daughters were infants, made family meals a central part of family life.

“Their interest really peaked when relatives from Sicily visited,” she says. The girls started studying Italian and writing letters to their cousins. “The family ties have given the girls a strong sense of extended family – even though they’re distant, they really feel a strong attachment.” And as these family ties strengthened, the Ziinos started adopting more Italian traditions in their home – celebrated with special meals, of course.

• One of the best ways to teach your children about their cultural heritage is to immerse them in it, says Judy Jent, who spent a year with her husband’s family in Jordan. During most of that year, her husband had to be at work back in the United States. Jent and her four children learned to speak Arabic and learned the customs and manners of Jordanian culture. Jent learned to cook Arabic food. And most important, she says, “the girls got to know their relatives and began to see themselves as part of an Arabic family.”

See the complete contents of Bicultural Families:
Part 1: Meeting the Challenges of Raising Children With Two Cultures

Part 2: Helping Kids Embrace Both Cultures

Part 3: Stages of Cultural Identity

Part 4: How Bicultural Families Make It Work

Part 5: Resources for Bicultural Families

Sandra Whitehead is an award-winning writer and a lecturer at Marquette University. She lives with her husband and three children.