River District Counselling & Wellness

Diversity, Culture and Parenting

In a multicultural place like Vancouver, or anywhere in the world, understanding how culture affects the way you parent is very important.

Culture shapes how your kids build their sense of identity and who they are. Culture is the values you have about language, food, religion, understanding of ethnicity, beliefs, and so much more. It is how people come together, grow, and learn. The values we hold are part of our self-identity and it defines who we believe we are, it also defines what we keep or let go of in our lives. 


As a parent, being open to exploring your family history is the beginning of understanding. Questioning how you ended up where you are and the story behind it is important. You might identify as Canadian with Irish ancestry and there is value in this story for your children. Not all stories are happy - often these stories identify struggle, pain and people are eager to close these doors. It is important to remember that these stories also highlight perseverance to survive, resilience and give us an understanding of how we were raised. The exploration of the origin of your family name is also a way to understand the culture. When we share with our kids who we are, where we come from, it gives them a greater sense of “self” and identity.

Culture guides your moral values, traditions, what you teach and value in your child. It guides our understanding of right and wrong. It is hard work rewiring our brains for this new generation. Parents are now having to become Social Justice Warriors and vocalize their beliefs and understanding around social equality. Think about your values or beliefs around sexuality, racism, sexism, ableism (able body, physically disadvantaged), classism, other cultures, ageism, or gender. It is crucial to understand our own biases, stereotypes or discrimination that we might not be aware of. These may be things that we were taught growing up, buried deeper than we thought. Being aware of our own blindspots will teach this new generation to reflect in the same way, so they can build their own understanding. 

If you and your partner have different cultural values you might experience a cultural clash.

What you think is right for your kid may be different than your partner. Cultural values have its place in society and there is benefit from integrating different values in one’s parenting style. Adolescents go through a self-exploration phase and it can be difficult to balance and find who they are when they grow up with bi-racial or bi-cultural influences. Working as a family to find a middle ground and compromise is important for everyone. The key to parenting is to communicate these cultural values at home. Remember, this is not about making your child CHOOSE one culture over the other! It can be an enriching experience for your child to become familiar with various traditions. You may find they naturally gravitate towards one set of values that is the opposite of yours and it is important for you to find room for flexibility in this situation.

Recognize that as a parent who is wanting to learn and grow with the child, there is a weight in the way you ask questions or how you make comments. The interpretation level for children and youth is often more sensitive than you realize. Your tone of voice being too sharp can imply that you are disapproving, while asking too many questions can imply that you’re intruding on their life. These small micro gestures/movements/ behaviours can impact how your children view you and your intention when they may be struggling to express themselves openly.
Learning different cultures can be as simple as listening to a certain genre of music or as complex as looking into your ancestry. Grow together to open your understanding of different cultures and your connection that you build with your kid will teach them to have compassion, respect and understanding for others. 


Use this learning opportunity to foster a deeper attachment with your kids. The more they know about your family history, the more secure they will be with you as the parent and with themselves as individuals.

If you are short on ideas, here are some activities you can do that are pandemic friendly:
  1. Try out different cuisines. Make it fun and let your kids be in the choosing process.
  1. Take a tour of some virtual museums around the world (ex: UBC Anthropology Museum)
  1. Walking tours on Youtube to “walk through” different parts of the world (Dress up for these youtube tours, make it fun, decorate your house together!)
  1. Access digital books that speak about multiculturalism and are age-appropriate for your kids

 Happy Parenting -  JC