Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Priming the Pump. Keeping the "Child" in Latino Childhood

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Priming the Pump. Keeping the "Child" in Latino Childhood

Article excerpt

the national zeal to prepare children for adulthood, have Latino parents inadvertently robbed them of childhood? Do they rush young Latinos to grow up, only to wish they were little again? Or do parents wonder how their children grew up so fast in some ways yet remain immature and unprepared in others?

Some Latino children grow up too fast because of circumstances, others by unbridled choice. A family defines the world for the young child. Children who grow up in households with unstable relationships among adults, broken commitments, and parents too busy or unwilling to give adequate time and attention to their children learn early that they must survive on their own.

"I had to take care of my younger brother and sister while my mother worked and then spent time with her boyfriends," said a Latina college senior. "She didn't have a lot of time for us, so I would get dinner for my brother and sister, help them with homework and get them to bed. I was like their second mom, but I didn't feel like I had a mother myself."

Latino children with few limits set by parents are often easily influenced by the media's images of sexy celebrities and racy lifestyles. Emulating the latest movie or hip-hop star might seem to them like the way to go. They have to learn how to live based on some role model and in the absence of guidance from adults they are prone to following the latest trend - not always the best choice.

Gifted Latino children, too, often grow up quickly because of their intellect or talent. Their world thrusts them into pushing ahead to achieve and compete more. They don't just hang out; they compete. A lot.

In all of these cases, the Hispanic child learns to grow up too soon in some ways, but in the process often fails to experience the lessons and fond memories of childhood. Like being carefree. Developing solid friendships. Or having a go-to place for comfort and emotional safety.

How can Latino children be allowed to be children?

Start with competent, involved, stable and committed parents who set limits and guide their children through talk and example. While technology promotes accomplishing some things more quickly, human development still requires the time and dedication of others to help learn the life lessons not available through software. …

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