Raising First Generation Iowans

People come to Iowa from all over the world for many reasons. Moving to another country and building a new life in a new culture can be incredibly challenging. Raising kids in a culture that is very different from your own takes things to a whole new level.

Children that grow up in an adopted homeland share their parents' genes, but in many cases parents watch those children move away from tradition and embrace a new way of looking at the world. For example, many parents struggle with teaching their native language to their kids. 

Ibrahim Khalaylih, an adjunct instructor at Drake University and President and founder of the Middle East Learning and Cultural Center, is from Jordan and came to the U.S in 1997. He is raising three children in Iowa.

“Language is definitely a challenge, to have them be bilingual where they speak their heritage language and the English language at the same time,” Khalaylih says. “All of my children speak Arabic, and understand it. We have been doing this since they were born. We speak Arabic at home.”

Jamet Colten, an Ames School Board Member from Chile has been in the U.S for 21 years and has a 12-year-old son. Jamet’s son doesn’t speak Spanish. 

“He understands most of it, but he has not made the transition [to speaking.] In our household we always spoke English. My husband speaks English,” she says. “ I have come to terms with it.” 

Dekow Sagar, Executive Director of the International Council for Refugees and Immigrants, is from Somalia and has six children. Sagar’s children do not speak his native language. 

“My children sadly don’t speak Somali. My oldest actually can comprehend some of it, but she cannot articulate any of that,” says Sagar. “But I think the reality is that when we came over here, we had to make ends meet and that required us to put my kids in daycare. The daycare is in English. Then they come home, and they watch TV in English. As much as you try to communicate in Somali, it is very much swimming against the waves."

Pragnya Yogesh, a CultureALL Ambassador and Director of the Eshanjali Dance Academy, is from India. She moved to the U.S 14 years ago and has two young boys. 

“Fortunately, both my kids speak the language that we speak, which is called Kannada— a South Indian language where I come from.”

On this episode of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe also talks with parents about the differences in religion, education and extended communities that they've noticed while raising children in Iowa.

Guests Include:

  • Jamet Colten, an Ames School Board Member
  • Ibrahim Khalaylih, adjunct instructor at Drake University and President and founder of the Middle East Learning and Cultural Center
  • Pragnya Yogesh, a CultureALL Ambassador and Director of the Eshanjali Dance Academy.
  • Dekow Sagar, Executive Director of the International Council for Refugees and Immigrants