Raising children in Somalia.: Becoming Minnesotan

Abdisalam Adam, displaying Somali objects and books, 2004.
  • Name - Abdisalam Adam
  • Age at interview - 38
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 06.24.2004
  • Somali family, Somalia.  Photo courtesy Abdisalam Adam.
    Somali girl and boy, Minnesota History Center, St. Paul, September 21, 2004.

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    Essential Question

    Life in the Old Country: What makes a country a person’s homeland?

    Traditions & Values: What makes up “culture”?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    In Somalia, the foundation of society is the family - including extended family members. It is common for women, grandmothers, aunts, and sisters to all be involved in the raising of children. Somalis have had to adjust to life in the U.S. where parents often work long hours and there is not always extended family around to help with children. It is also more common for Somali women living in the U.S. to work, as opposed to life in Somalia where a woman’s primary duty was to manage the household and raise responsible and respectful children. For these reasons, Somali fathers in the U.S. sometimes feel that they need to be more directly involved in their children’s lives here in the U.S., so that both parents can be a strong influence for maintaining traditional Somali values.

    To learn more about Somali history and culture, visit our Somali Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Abdisalam Adam 1
    2:1 Minutes | 1.93Mb


    Narrator: Abdisalam Adam (AA)

    AA:  In Somalia, as I mentioned earlier, sometimes, especially the fathers in the countryside did not play much of a role in the child’s upbringing. So usually when the child would be born, it was mostly the mother that cared for them.

    Even in the cities, the kids will be raised by all the family together. There wasn’t that bond in a father/son. Mothers/daughters were a little bit better. Mothers did keep a hand on their daughters and teach them how to cook and how to take care of household chores and so on.

    That bond of communication, it was more of a relationship of maybe a fear, rather than respect and understanding. A lot of times, the kids will be kind of scared of their father or their parent. So you don’t see them growing up together and knowing each other very well or communicating. But here, it’s very different, as I mentioned earlier. If we’re not really close with our children and do not follow step by step where they are and who they are with and what they went through in their daily life, it’s very easy for the children to be distracted and go off the way you want them to be raised. 

    So if you really want to maintain them and to be respectful to you and to your family values, religious values, we need to really have more communication, a better relationship, make them feel comfortable talking to us and coming with questions and asking for our help. In Somalia, many topics were taboo to talk about with the kids, so we’re just not used to it. Current circumstances, I think we need to be more upfront and have better communication with our kids.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  An agreement or friendship that unites individuals or peoples into a group.


    Noun:  The conditions surrounding an event.


    Verb:  To express or convey ideas, either through verbal or nonverbal methods.  (communicates, communicating, communicated)


    Noun: The exchange of information between different parties.


    Adjective:  Having one's attention diverted; preoccupied.


    Adjective:  Determined by society as improper or unacceptable.

    Noun:  An object or action that is determined by society as improper or unacceptable.


    Adjective:  Honest; candid; straightforward.


    Noun:  A collection of guiding, usually positive principles; what one deems to be correct and desirable in life, especially regarding personal conduct.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access]. http://www.mnhs.org/immigration
    nid: 517