Mixed Culture Families

As most of our readers would agree, the Ireland of today is quite different to that of 20 or 30 years ago. This is true in so many different aspects of life, and we cannot cover all of them adequately in these blog posts. However, in today’s #ThursdayThoughts post, we will look at one particular fact that is quite relevant in today’s Brexit world – the issue of multi-culturism. How does this affect Irish families and what are the difficulties, if any, experienced by mixed-culture families? In many ways ahead of his time, Owen Connolly addressed this in his book for fathers, “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants”, published over 10 years ago, and you can read the extract below.


In this country we are going to have more and more mixed-culture families, and no culture should be made out to be better or worse than another. That’s a very dreadful thing to do. I have a Palestinian client who was born in Jerusalem, and she has lived elsewhere for much of her life. When asked where she is from, she will never say Jerusalem, but always another part of the Middle East. She would not say she was Palestinian because people would form immediate opinions, but I say to her, “Why not proudly say you were born in Jerusalem? Many people would be happy to hear that. You need to value where you were born. You are part of a nation of people – the Palestinians. If you don’t embrace that, you’ll be forever ducking and diving and pretending you’re someone else. And that will not help you in the long run. If you don’t embrace your own culture, you’ll regard other cultures as better than yours and you’ll do damage to yourself.”

mixed culture couple

So if your parents are two different colours or cultures, be proud. If your Dad’s Nigerian and you’re mum’s Irish, be proud. You’ve brought another kind of gifting and another valuable genetic make-up into the country. We all need to feel proud and rooted and connected to our ancestors. It doesn’t matter if your parents were working class or from a difficult cultural situation. What matters is that you’re proud of them, because they caused you to be here today. They are the product of generations and generations of survivors. Under slightly different circumstances, they might have been very rich (or very poor). You should not be dismissive of them. That’s the wrong attitude to take towards culture or class or place of origin.

It’s something we all need to look at, and it’s a parental responsibility to speak well of your parents and grandparents. Your child doesn’t know that your Granddad was a brute. Why feed them with stuff that’s not necessary? There must have been things about him that were encouraging. You personally have to deal with the issues related to your mother and father, but you don’t need to put the sins of the father upon the heads of the children or grandchildren. That forgiveness is your business, not theirs. It’s important for children to associate with grandparents or aunts and uncles. Never go into a dismissive mode about where they’re coming from or what their background is. You want the child to go on and live healthily.

Also, there are cases where children are told about their auntie Mary – “She was odd” – and then someone will say to the child “You’re just like Mary”, and the child starts to fear they’ll be odd. That’s a very unfair thing to put upon a child. They’re their own person. They are uniquely themselves and they really don’t need to worry about some trait that is perceived to be inherited.

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