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Obesity And Preserving Culture: Latinos Discuss Parenting Challenges

By NPR Staff | 09/17/2013

Health, cultural assimilation and language are some of the top concerns on the minds of a group of Latino parents, social media influencers and regular contributors to Tell Me More. Health was something first lady Michelle Obama highlighted in July, when she addressed the National Council of La Raza, the nation's leading Hispanic civil rights organization.

"Right now, nearly 40 percent of Hispanic children in this country are overweight or obese," the first lady said. "Nearly 50 percent are on track to develop diabetes, a disease that is already far too common in so many of our communities. So, while food might be love, the truth is that we are 'loving' ourselves and our kids to death."

A National Council of La Raza study, America's Future: Latino Child Well-Being in Numbers and Trends, published in 2010, found that "children's success in school is ... closely tied to their parents' ability to speak English. Limited English proficiency can limit job opportunities, earnings, access to health care, and the ability of parents to interact with the school system or help their children with homework." Language proficiency in English is a particular challenge to some recent and first-generation immigrants. But for families who have been in the United States for many generations, instilling a sense of connection to their heritage through language can be a challenge as well.

Host Michel Martin invited a group of Latino parents to join a special edition of Tell Me More's weekly parenting round table, and here are some of the thoughts they shared.

Resa Barillas, mother of a 2-year-old son, on the difficulty of choosing the right foods

"With other Latinos and the culture here in America as a whole, really terrible foods are so cheap and easily available and convenient, that it's easy to choose those kind of foods, instead of whole, nutritious foods that are more nourishing and better for our bodies."

Aracely Panameno, mother of a 24-year-old daughter, on why she felt it was important for her daughter to learn Spanish

"It was very important for me for her to learn Spanish, and because I knew that she was in a societal environment where the pressure was going to be anglophone, I insisted that she be bilingual."

NPR reporter Felix Contreras, dad of two boys aged 9 and 12, on whether he has had "the talk" that many black parents feel they have to have with their sons

"Honestly, that never crossed my mind to have that kind of talk. Now certainly, with my oldest, he's going to be 13 next month ... he's very socially aware of inequities and the way things work in the world. And he's conscious of his own Latino and Italian heritage. ... So he sees things a little differently than I think his peers do. So he's conscious and aware of how people can treat people differently sometimes."

For more photos from the live show, look at the album on Tell Me More's Facebook page.
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