You are a new immigrant to Canada. You made this decision considering chances of a better life and future for you and your loved ones particularly your children. As an adult you make a well-informed decision to move your life across continents. You are aware that you will face challenges and came prepared for it. However, despite that knowledge the reality of a new life in Canada often hits the new immigrant hard. It is overwhelming for you and me. All of us, first generation immigrants, have been there and some of us still struggle with it.
Think about the next generation – your young children who embarked on this journey with you, unbeknownst to them – of what life here would be like. My son came with me to Canada when he was 15-month-old, from Nepal. To him, this is his country – the only world he knows. Fortunately for him, he does not have to start afresh. But many other immigrant children come at different ages and face different challenges of adapting to a new country and way of life.
Parenting is perhaps the hardest job and being good at it is even harder. Top that with being an immigrant parent trying to be good at it. Tough, right?
“Immigrant parents find their roles and relationships with their children change, and their parenting ability is placed under significant stress in a number of ways in the new culture. These parents experience economic and social stress as they attempt to cope with the tasks of daily life without the familiar support system of family and friends and the comfort of their culture of origin. Such problems as unemployment, underemployment, multiple job holding, shifts in gender-based economic roles, language acquisition differences, realignment of parental authority, role reversal issues, separation of family members, influence of peer culture on children, and interfacing with social institutions,” researchers of The Immigrant Family: Parent-Child Dilemmas and Therapy Considerations in American International Journal of Contemporary Research state.
Did you know that almost 3 in 10 children in Canada are second generation? According to Statistics Canada, Many immigrants arrive in Canada in their early adult years and generally have children once they have settled.
Our relationship with children is constantly changing, whether we are immigrants or not. With the added pressure of making it in a new country, we often pile that on our children too. The Immigrant Life, your partner through this journey, shares some thoughts on this issue:
- Have a conversation: Make your children part of your immigrant experience. Share your thoughts, the difficulties you face, how you’d overcome them and if they are old enough, seek their opinion.
- Make them aware of challenges: Whether it is your struggle with finding the right job or ordering food in the drive-thru – let them see you fall, falter, and rise.
- Be comfortable with languages: As an immigrant you will be speaking at least two languages – your native and English. If you have difficulty communicating in English and have an accent, let your children understand that your primary language is not English, and it is enriching to be able to speak more than one language.
- Remain open: The challenges you face and that your children face will probably be entirely different. Listen to them. If you are not able to help, find others who can.
- Expose them to different cultures: It is not just your ethnic culture that your children should be aware of but other cultures too. Try to expose them to different culture, food habits, languages, music, religions and help them understand that the world is diverse.
- Explore your children’s beliefs with them: As immigrant parents we often try to thrust our beliefs and opinions on children. Hold on to them and listen to the beliefs your children are acquiring and drawn to. Offer your thoughts and help them have an open mind to other’s beliefs.
- Accept them: As children get into adolescence, they undergo profound changes. Be aware of this and accept that their challenges may not duplicate what you went through at that age. As a parent, let them know that you are always there for them.
- Don’t force your aspirations: Many of us give up our personal hopes and aspirations for our children but let’s not burden them with the guilt of not living up to our dreams. Instead help them create their goals and achieve them.
- Manage cultural clash: Immigrant parents bring their cultural baggage and expect their children to adhere to it. However, the children are exposed to a different set of cultural practices which will sometimes clash. There is wisdom in understanding this difference in cultural values, respecting where the other comes from, and fostering a healthy environment.
Feel free to share with us what is it that you do to keep your children mentally healthy and strong. As always, The Immigrant Life is here for you. Connect with us. Contribute to a vibrant immigrant community.
If you are a parent looking for more resources on bringing up kids as an immigrant, find it here: https://www.kidsnewtocanada.ca