Cultural Traditions in Latinx Families
We can all learn from Latinx families and their cultural traditions. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we asked Maria Veronica Svetaz, M.D, M.P.H., to share some of the cultural strengths Latinx families draw upon when raising young people. Dr. Svetaz is an Assistant Professor of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine. She is also Medical Director of Aquí Para Tí/Here for You, a clinic-based development program to support Latino youth and their families. Dr. Svetaz reveals five important ways in which Latinx values and culture support teen growth and development.
Aspects of Latinx Culture That Support Teens Thriving
- Love. In the parenting world, love holds absolute power. The same is true for Latinx families. Dr. Svetaz says a parent’s love for their child is both nurturing and potentially life-changing. Children and motherhood are considered sacred within the culture. Parents are expected to help ensure children feel safe and secure through their love. Dr. Svetaz adds that Latinx is a “contact” culture full of hugs and kisses. Parents also show their love through their actions and the sacrifices they make for their families. And young people gain feelings of strength and positivity when they know they are loved.
- Familismo. Defining oneself through a tight-knit family and respect for elders is the concept behind Familismo. It’s a value that benefits teens because they are surrounded and encouraged by family and caring adults in their lives. This support system gives teens plenty of options to choose from when it comes to needing a trusted contact to talk with, solicit advice from, or learn from another’s life experiences.
- The Connections. This kinship system extends one’s relationships well outside of the immediate family and into the wider community. It stresses a culture that encourages the importance of connecting, reaching out, and supporting each other. Everyone is a tio (uncle/aunt) or a comadre (“co-mother”)! El barrio and la vecindad (both meaning “neighborhood”) are key words in the Spanish language. Throwing out a wider net and being part of a larger community that cares enough to catch, support, and empower those within serves to benefit young people and adults alike!
- Celebrations. Celebrations are woven throughout the Latinx lifestyle. From the daily routines, like la sobremesa (how families remain together after a meal talking about issues that matter to them), to the need to discuss complex issues or problems and reflect upon them. Food and dance are anchors of everyday mindfulness and how to create joy on the go — even at times when it feels like there is not much to celebrate. No matter how small or seemingly routine, these celebrations allow young people to learn to be grateful for being alive.
- Cultural Navigation. Latinx families that immigrate to the United States learn to navigate two (or more!) different cultures and languages. With that comes flexibility, adaptability, and the ability to bounce back from challenges. These are invaluable skills that often lead to ingenuity and success as children grow. Latinx families must regularly and continuously pay attention and respect to their surroundings. By doing so, they help ensure that young people become global citizens. Teens who feel a sense of who they are and where they belong feel they can influence their future and improve it.
According to Dr. Svetaz, we all could benefit from “an infusion of togetherness.” Blending aspects of Latinx culture into everyday life — like the celebration of just being together — may lead to critical psychological benefits. And as a bonus, it can help build essential character strengths that promote tween and teen thriving as they move into adulthood.