The easiest and most beneficial way to help you gain some clarity is to start off where I wouldn’t go for advice:
Don’t go and seek advice from people who have no idea like eg. monolingual mother-in-laws or your best friend that’s never left the country.
Advice no. 2:
Ask a parent who has an idea and who’s got some good results.
She or he probably will be bilingual (although, I’ve seen monolingual parents jumping on the bilingual parenting wagon).
Someone who’s been there, done that. Someone who’s walked the walk.
Someone who’s not only faced the hurdles but also managed to successfully overcome them.
Advice no. 3:
Be patient. Super patient. Ultra patient. Be patience itself! It’ll pay off, trust me.
You’re in for a marathon here, bilingual parenting is not a sprint.
And now I tell you why:
Don’t go for advice to people who’ve never done it or who tried to achieve it, but failed or rather didn’t achieve the results you are looking for.
For example, if you want to get into healthy eating and getting fit, you wouldn’t ask your friend who is a couch potato who spends hours no end watching Netflix and eating bags of crisps and/ or posting it all on FB, would you?
(Any facebook addicts reading this? Sorry… not sorry.)
Instead, you’d find a person who’s got eating habits you want to have, you follow them and ask them to share their recipes or teach you.
Or another example: you’d to see a fitness instructor who’s not overweight.
Or would you rather go and see a fat fitness instructor? (Are there any fat fitness instructors? Hello?!)
So PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE if you’re taking bilingual parenting seriously and you really want to get some results DO NOT ask for or take the advice of your monolingual well-meaning mother-in-law or your great great aunt.
No disrespect, but they seriously have no idea. They’ll only make you worried that something is going or could potentially go wrong.
I remember having a conversation with my nan a few years ago about a friend and her kids and how she coped.
And my nan, bless her, I love her to bits, was ready to give her (via myself) tonnes of advice about how to cope with 3 kids under three… while she’d only had my mum!
She’s had one child almost 60 years ago and now she’s telling my friend what to do with 3 kids? Ha! How does that work?!
Seriously, a person who hasn’t learnt to speak a single foreign language can’t offer you any advice on bilingual matters, even if she/he is your best friend. Period.
Parenting is not easy, bilingual or not, that’s for sure. Especially when you’re starting out as a new parent. You are literally entering uncharted territory.
While it might be well chartered and familiar to others, but to you, until you’ve crossed that bridge… you don’t know, and that’s perhaps what’s the scariest.
There is no manual for your baby.
In fact, there are tonnes of advice everywhere on the internet, but who knows?
And that’s the scary bit as well.
Suddenly, there’s so much contradicting advice. It can drive you nuts more than anything.
Who shall I listen to? Who shall I follow? Who’s telling me ‘porkie pies’?
Are these people seriously making these up just to get noticed?
I still very clearly remember my feelings as a newbie parent. The most annoying thing wasn’t the crying of my first bilingual cherub (although it was horrendous, there’s no doubt about it), or the stress caused by me trying to breastfeed (and I was failing miserably to start with, but actually managed to breastfeed him till he was around 15 months old in the end).
The worst or most scary bit for me was that I had a university degree, regarded myself as an intelligent human being in her early thirties, but I couldn’t bloody work out how to navigate through all the baby information inferno….
I felt paralysed… I was truly a bag of hormones.
Something ‘huge’ happened to me and the world hasn’t even stopped spinning… Luckily!
And looking back, I pretty much felt as I felt because I wasn’t in touch with my instincts.
I was desperately looking for advice around me instead of looking inside me.
Luckily, my lovely, very English mother-in-law, bless her heart, gave me a very useful life lesson (not regarding bilingual parenting in this case!).
When I was confused about all the various advice like:
your baby shouldn’t be sleeping on their front, you should put your baby on his back due to blah blah blah… or to wind him or not?
When I was puzzled and fairly emotionally low about this never-ending contradictory advice from all experts, she said:
‘Darling, I don’t know, you have to work it out yourself.
Look, when I had my kids, the advice was to put them for a sleep on their tummy, when your sister-in-law had her kids 15 years ago, she was told to put them to sleep on their side and now they’re telling you the babies must sleep on their backs. And in five or ten years someone will come up and say that this was all wrong, that you must put them to sleep hanging upside down otherwise you’ll kill them.
So don’t listen to anybody.
The only advice I can give you, my dear, is try what you feel might work.
If you feel it’s not working, try something else, but be patient.
Some things just don’t happen overnight, it might take some time, so don’t switch too often. You just have to work out what’s best for you and your baby.’
If you’ve read it carefully, she said ‘try what you FEEL might work’, there was no thinking involved. Or maybe just a tiny little bit.
And this was the best piece of non-bilingual and bilingual parenting advice someone has ever given me.
From then on it was onwards and upwards, bilingual babies or not.
There are some buts and maybies regarding bilingual babies and the whole bilingual parenting madness.
You can read about them in my blog post here.