Today’s Latinx parents are raising their kids differently from how they were brought up. The shift is part of a larger movement among millennial parents to break generational cycles of trauma. Latinx parents are trying to honor cultural values (think: respect and family) while incorporating gentle parenting techniques. For many, this means re-learning how to discipline without punishment. (PSA: Some traditional Latinx parents used forms of physical punishment, including using la chancla).
But how do you do this without offending your own parents or, worse, getting pushback from them?
To find out, we spoke to two experts about how to set boundaries and get our families on board: Leslie Priscilla, the founder of Latinx Parenting, a community that helps Latinx parents break cycles of generational trauma. And April Mayorga, a trauma family therapist who works with Latinx families in California.
How to explain your parenting style to los abuelos and family
“One thing we notice with Latino culture is that grandparents can be very defensive. [They] feel that they’re being attacked or that you're ungrateful for the ways that they raised you. So you want to acknowledge that that's not it. That they're being invited to come to the table and learn about the relationship between parents and children,” said Mayorga.
Priscilla said it’s important to first acknowledge that you and your child’s grandparents all have the same goals: for your children to be happy, successful, and healthy. She recommends you start the convo by asking abuela or abuelo about their own childhood.
“‘Let's talk about the feelings that you experienced when you got hit. When you got that chancla when you got the cinto (belt), etc.’ When you really help [the grandparent] focus on those emotions and those feelings and those sensations in a safe, contained way, then there's a little bit more openness to the ways that we wanna move forward in treating children,” said Priscilla.
The priority should be your children, not trying to change your parents’ minds. (AKA: Don’t put all your energy into getting your parents on board).
But you can create some boundaries.
How to set and maintain boundaries with family
Set clear rules
Be clear on what your values are. And communicate them, even if it means you have to write down rules or reminders for them. The goal is to make sure you’re all on the same page, especially if they’re taking care of the nietos.
Find a support system
That can be your partner, friends, a Facebook group, or a weekly meetup with other Latinx parents who share your values. Priscilla said if you can’t get support at home, you should create your own community. (FYI: Latinx Parenting is creating a membership community where people can have these conversations).
Check in with yourself
Priscilla said that many times, being around our parents can trigger trauma or create behavior that impacts the way we parent our kids (oftentimes, not in a good way). Lean on your support system. And if you’re feeling stressed or anxious, there are different ways to get help.
“I encourage anybody to go to therapy so you have a safe space to be able to process what comes up for you because our inner child is going to be activated in [certain] situations,” said Priscilla. “If you see a grandparent or an elder yelling at your child, your inner niña is going to be activated and you're going to have to cope with how that makes you feel.”
Talking to your parents about why you’re choosing to raise your kids differently can be difficult (for both parties). But experts say it’s important to explain how gentle parenting works. Don’t focus all your energy on getting abuelo’s approval. But do focus on setting boundaries. Because generational healing can have long-term benefits for you and your kids.
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