Addressing Cultural Differences

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You and the families you work with may differ on some dimension of culture– race/ethnicity, country of origin, language, age, sexual orientation, number of children, and socioeconomic status, among others. Recognizing and sensitively discussing those differences early in your work together will be important for developing rapport with your families and ensuring that they feel understood and valued. Here are some tips for discussing differences between yourself and the families you work with:

  • Before going into visits with a new family, reflect on your cultural identity and your own values and attitudes about how families function. The Family of Origin exercise on the Culture homepage can help you think about how your upbringing may influence how you think about families.
  • Within your first few visits, talk about cultural and identity differences with the family. This lets them know that you’re aware of your differences and are comfortable talking about them.
Here is how you might start a conversation about cultural differences: “One thing to acknowledge is how our identities influence us. My experiences as a Black woman from a big, religious family have shaped how I view families, parenting, and children.  For example, "For us….[talk about your background and how it shapes how you view parenting]…How do you think your family and background influences how you view families, parenting, and children?”
  • Take the lead. Don’t wait for the family to start a conversation about cultural differences or concerns.
  • Acknowledge that your values and attitudes developed from your unique life experiences and may differ from the family’s values and attitudes.
Example: “You and I have different life experiences that may cause us to have different beliefs and ways of thinking, and that’s okay. What is important is that we take time to talk about our values and how they impact the choices we make”
  • Encourage the family to talk with you about cultural differences in the future.
Example: “I’m glad we could talk a little about our backgrounds. Please know that if you ever feel like I don’t understand how your life experiences or identity lead you to view things a certain way, it would be helpful if you could let me know about that. I would like for us to be able to talk about our differences.”