Encouragement for parents raising bilingual kids to inspire consistency in their language use
During my childhood, my grandparents lived in a large white farmhouse in the Iowa countryside. When my family and I would arrive and walk in the door, my grandma and grandpa would greet us with huge smiles and tight hugs. Then I’d look front and center on the wall opposite the door to find another greeting on an oversized black chalkboard.
On the huge chalkboard, my grandma would write beautiful messages to welcome family and friends. Sometimes the message would be a greeting, other times a Bible verse, and most often words of encouragement. She’d write messages to spark a smile, make you feel loved, or brighten your day.
I’ll tell you that I think parenting – especially raising bilingual kids – is some of the hardest work there is. Don’t we as parents still need words of encouragement? Hearing uplifting messages that inspire me help me continue on this challenging journey. They remind me why I’m sharing Spanish with my kids, can reignite my passion for the language, and inspire me to keep up the consistency needed each day.
So grab a chalkboard (or find another spot at your desk, on the fridge, or on a bathroom mirror) and write out your own uplifting message for raising bilingual kids. I’ll get you started!
Find your balance,
Words of Encouragement for Raising Bilingual Kids
1. You are giving your child an incredible gift.
Bilingualism is truly a lifelong gift. Sharing a second language with your child, like Spanish, opens up so many possibilities. Another language means connecting with more people throughout life, making new friends, learning about new cultures. It can mean more travel and job opportunities as well. Speaking another language will enrich your child’s life!
2. Your child will reap so many benefits!
The research is clear: bilingualism has incredible benefits for our bodies, brains, and lives. I have a whole post outlining ten important benefits of being bilingual! Benefits like communicating with more people in our community, better listening skills and improved concentration, and even stronger literacy skills.
3. Your child is making progress.
Sometimes it seems slower than we might like, but I’d guess your child continues to make progress in their language abilities. With consistent target language input and a need to use the language, your child is going to keep improving. Nightly book time in Spanish, dinnertime chatting in Spanish, FaceTime with grandpa, these consistent routines matter and add up!
4. Keep exposing them to both languages in fun ways.
Keep it simple, make it fun! This is something my mom, an incredibly gifted teacher, says often. Our kids need to build a positive connection to the language – Spanish isn’t just grammar and vocabulary, it is lived. Show them how amazing your language is by using it for FUN family games, songs on road trips, silly jokes, and exciting family outings.
5. Sharing your culture connects your child to others.
Are your sharing a heritage language that allows your child to communicate with family members? Language and culture are undoubtedly tied together, and passing on a family language connects your child to your roots, history, and culture. I hope it instills pride in your child for their cultural identity and a sense of belonging with family near and far.
Language can also connect us to new friends around the world – opening up opportunities for relationships because we can speak their language. I don’t know about you, but I want my three kids to learn and care about our own and other diverse cultures around the world, and to become positive global citizens.
6. Find your own balance in raising bilingual kids – don’t compare.
Find your balance is how I end many of my blog posts. In a nutshell, it means find the right path for your bilingual family and your goals for your child. Then, let go of the guilt and the comparison and embrace joy and sustainability. My husband doesn’t speak Spanish, and for a long time I felt comparison to other bilingual families stealing my joy. I felt the weight of juggling teaching my young children two languages completely on my shoulders.
So let me encourage you to find your family’s path, and then shut out the noise. Try not to compare your child’s language growth to another child. Try not to compare your family dynamics and bilingual parenting with other families. There are no perfect parents or kids. Find what works for your family and achieves your goals, and dive in, listening to voices that inspire you to keep going.
7. Celebrate their language milestones, big and small.
Cheer on your little linguist as they learn! Your child needs words of affirmation and encouragement as well. Take note of and celebrate when they use a new phrase or vocabulary word. Or when they respond to you in the target language without prompting. When they start reading in the target language! Our positive attitude towards their progress will rub off.
Related post: 50 Positive Affirmations to Tell Your Child (English & Spanish printable)
8. You don’t need all the latest and greatest to pass on your language.
Sharing your language doesn’t have to mean expensive camps, new toys, more books, or complicated activities. Simple, everyday moments work, too. It’s easy to get caught up searching for the latest and greatest bilingual products. And it’s great when you want to try something new in your child’s language learning journey! But, sharing your language with your child through everyday moments like making breakfast or getting ready for bed is also meaningful and effective.
9. It’s normal for them to code-switch; it’s part of the process.
Don’t get discouraged when your child switches back and forth between languages. As we learn, we develop a larger base of vocabulary to use when communicating. Yet as emergent bilinguals, our children may not have some vocabulary they need, or they may find it easier to express a thought in one language. It’s normal for our children to take time sorting out when (and with who) to use each language. And being able to use both is one of our bilingual kids’ superpowers!
10. Language learning is a lifelong journey.
In one language or two, we continue to learn and grow in our language skills throughout our lives! Your time and dedication spent now in the childhood years are setting a foundation. Take heart knowing that the work you’re doing matters, but it’s okay to give yourself grace and patience. We don’t become fluent in a language overnight. And remember that language learning is fluid – your child’s fluency can fluctuate throughout life based on how much they’re exposed to and need to use the language.
AND… Someday, your child will be thankful for all you’ve done.
I’ve never met someone who regretted learning another language. Have you? Rest assured that even though your child may not appreciate the work you’re doing now to share your language with them, they will in the future. Someday, they’ll most likely look back and be thankful that you didn’t give up, you stuck with it, stayed inspired, and prioritized their bilingualism. Keep up the good work raising bilingual kids!