7 Tips for Tackling Big Challenges Like Bilingual Parenting

I was chatting with my 6-year-old daughter about how she tackles big projects. She’s recently completed a few 1000-piece puzzles and cardboard crafts, and her insight was so relevant to life in general. Her reply inspired me to apply this advice to bilingual parenting, a daunting task that most of you have taken on!

I’ve combined our thoughts into 7 tips for tackling intense challenges like raising multilingual children.

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tips for tackling challenges in bilingual parenting

7 Tips for Tackling Challenges in Bilingual Parenting

More tried-and-true advice for raising bilingual children:

Auntie & Betty at the Merry-Go-Round
With my auntie; now I can communicate with her in her mother tongue

1. Bilingual parenting – look at the big picture

The first step is to consider the long game of bilingual parenting and weigh the pros and cons.

If you live in a monolingual community with little support, raising bilingual children can be incredibly daunting.

The benefits need to be strong enough to motivate and carry you through the difficult days.

Related: A Letter to My Parents: Why I’m Teaching Your Grandchildren Chinese

Visual daily routine chart for kids - free printable in Chinese, Korean, English
Wall-sized bilingual routine chart encourages minority languages; kids’ table from Amazon, step stool (similar here), wood wall clock

2. Create a space – physically and mentally – for the endeavor

A good foundation starts with preparing ourselves and our homes to support the goal of raising bilingual children.

Important questions to discuss with your spouse include:

Try this: Play Area / Homeschool Room Before and After: 11 Tips for Decluttering

Montessori-inspired learning area for bilingual children

3. Organize your bilingual parenting resources

For bilingual parenting, this means books, music, and other media in the minority languages are visible and accessible for both kids and parents.

Since most of us are very busy, look for ways to improve efficiency, such as listening to audiobooks during car rides.

Rather than subscribing to 30 different Chinese YouTube channels and following thousands of social media accounts, stick with a few that consistently meets your family’s needs.

Try this: 15 Ways to Encourage Your Child to Read

Focus on the step in front of you, not the whole staircase

4. One step at a time

After getting yourself and your home ready with bilingual resources, focus on one step at a time.

Set small, reasonable goals in your daily to-do list, such as:

  • Learn how to say _________.
  • Read _____ book.
  • Sing ______ song.

For bilingual parenting, I did not start with the goal of fluency. Speaking and reading Chinese fluently initially seemed so impossible and far away.

Instead, I aimed to learn a few common phrases, then popular Chinese children’s songs and nursery rhymes.

After hitting first milestones, gradually set higher goals.

When I talked to my daughter, she said that she never looks at the puzzle box cover again after choosing it. She literally just focuses on finding the next piece!

Try this: How to Make the Switch from Dominant to Minority Language

exploring nature with kids

4. Take breaks to refresh and refuel

We all know it’s too easy to burn out and need self-care to refresh and refuel!

For non-fluent parents who are learning language with their kids, take the night off from studying if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

On a regular basis, make sure you’re getting exercise and sunshine to nourish yourself and build endurance in other ways!

Consider this: The Risks of Overnurturing with Multilingual Parenting

Hebrews 4 16, ESV

5. Know when to ask for help with bilingual parenting

Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you’re feeling stuck about translations, buying books, and teaching tips!

If you’re concerned about your child’s development, be sure to talk to their pediatrician and teachers for reassurance or referrals to specialists who can help with speech and fine motor skills.

If you have relatives and friends who share the language you’re working on with your kids, be sure to invite them on your journey.

On the other hand, if you’re on a language island like myself where there’s no diversity, online support has been helpful. Know that we’re always here cheer you on! 🙂

And if you’re religious like us, prayer and bible verses are daily sources of strength.

Collaborative learning - toddler drawing while big sister writes Tang poem in Chinese
Sister writing Tang poem (with some mistakes); brother’s related drawing

6. Bilingual parenting requires extra patience and perseverance

Progress takes time, patience, practice, and perseverance.

Through these challenges, we grow and connect with our children, our family, and other friends working toward similar goals.

Most good things don’t magically happen overnight – enjoy the journey!

What tips help you tackle big challenges?

What helps you overcome challenging days? What else would you add to this list?

Please feel free to share in the comments below.

Cheering you on, friends!

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