Welcome to Miami / Bienvenidos a Miami: Acculturation strategies for immigrant families.
Updated: Sep 5, 2019
The very essence of Miami is made up of the richness in cultures its inhabitants provide. Looking deeper into the immigration/relocation process of families to Miami, it is thought that the psychosocial adjustment experienced with immigration/relocation impacts all members of the family, no matter the age. Thus, parents and children will go through their own acculturation process, and these may not always match.
How well a family adapts to the immigration/relocation process varies on their age at relocation, familial support, language acquisition, education level, resiliency, among many other variables. The successful adaptation of one’s relocation is also directly dependent on the acculturation strategy. The Berry Model highlights four possible acculturation strategies most immigrants go through, and, the goal is to have integration and acceptance of both cultures. (John W Berry 1997, Immigration, Acculturation, and Adaptation. Applied Psychology: An international review 1997 46(2), 5-68.)
• Assimilation – completely adopting the new culture and fully being part of the new society rather than their own culture
• Separation – high value on their culture, very little to no value to the new culture
• Integration – incorporating yourself as a diverse individual into the community as an equal member; thus, both cultures are valued and integrated
• Marginalization – rejecting their own culture; as well as, the host/new culture
Miami’s cultural richness has the potential add to our family’s tapestry. However, integration is difficult when competing values, customs, and cultural norms clash. For example, the lifestyle values and cultural norms found in Miami may clash with the values and norms the family unit already formed in their homeland. When this occurs, individual members of the family use marginalization and separation strategies to deny or reject the new culture. Consequently, the younger family members will likely adopt the new cultural values/norms; while the older family members adopt their native cultural values. Naturally, this divide causes tension within the family unit.
My advice to families who are going through the integration process is to establish clear foundational, cultural beliefs, and values; while also exercising a degree of flexibility and firmness. We all have cultural norms/values that were passed on from generation to generation. Some are adaptive, while others are maladaptive; however, we tend to follow these norms out of “costumbre” because it is what our caregivers taught us to do. I advise my parents to be intentional about what new cultural norms you intend to incorporate into your family unit. I ask my clients, “who or what has defined and formed the norms, customs, and values you hold?” Then I follow up with, “are these norms/customs/values shaping your family in a healthy or unhealthy way?” If so, what is the evidence or what areas could improve?” Ultimately, the goal is to be able to pass on adaptive norms, customs, and values to our children; which is best achieved when parents are being intentional, flexible, and firm. It is essential to exercise flexibility by redefining our unhealthy norms and exercise firmness by educating and passing on to our children the “costumbres” that shape you as a family.
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Seeking help – some therapy options to consider
Family-centered services (problems and solutions are defined within the context of the family’s culture, ethnicity and context) - When cultural norms clash within the family unit it typically occurs between children and parents/caregivers. This is likely due to competing acculturation strategies. It is important to involve children, parents and extended family members in therapy or services to increase cohesion in the family unit.
Strengths-based - The family strengths and talents should be determined and utilized when addressing difficulties in adaptation and acculturation strategies.
Individualized - Each member of the family has their own acculturation journey that affects the family as a whole. Addressing the unique needs of each individual is just as important as addressing the family unit.
Yo Soy________/I am__________
Yo soy Boricua, but I live in South FL. My upbringing in Puerto Rico was definitively different from the upbringing my toddler is having as she grows up in south Florida. I do want her to learn about my heritage, culture, values and norms. Therefore, my husband and I are currently teaching her English and Spanish. We are also cooking with her as a way to learn our culture’s love language. Whether she’s cooking with me in my kitchen or I’m playing in her kitchen we talk about our favorite dishes, she is introduced to the smells and flavors specific to our cultural dishes. Storytelling about our island and music, especially the Spanish guitar, is part of our daughter’s introduction to our culture.
We would love to hear from you. #untrendyparentclub tell us about your acculturation process and how you share your culture with your family?
Disclaimer: The content shared in this page is intended as general advice only, and not to replace clinical counseling, medical treatment, legal counsel, or pastoral guidance.