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How Immigrants Can Keep Their Families Intact

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A Lebanese Story

Majd Kassim, a 27-year-old Lebanese was raised in the modern city of Beirut, a completely westernized city, though with strong traditional values. The natives place high value on strong family ties and relationships. Communal living is heartily embraced, and it is not uncommon to see cousins maintain close relationship just like real siblings.

Majd loves to spend his spare time visiting friends and relatives. His favorite relative is Uncle Maytham, an interesting fella who loves to share exotic and personal stories. Majd recollects with some nostalgia and a little bit of regret that, his uncle’s storytelling ability is nothing compared to public storytelling and poetry events he had attended back home.

Life in Canada

In spring 2020, Majd moved to Canada as a permanent resident with his wife and a 3-year-old daughter. The couple had fallen in love with Canada since they heard about the success stories of countless immigrants in their sophomore year in the university back home. The two were not yet dating but each secretly nursed an ambition of relocating to Canada after their studies.

As a Systems Engineer with 4 years’ work experience in Beirut, Majd never thought he would be jobless even after 7 months of being in Canada, the land of his dreams. But he is without a “real” job, though he has taken a few odd jobs here and there. His wife, a Speech therapist, has had to stay back home to take care of their little one.

Majd was in dire straits – his tidy settlement fund is almost thinned, having gone into their car purchase, settling bills, and paying rent, added to everyday living expenses. Majd no longer feels confident and is disappointed with himself mostly. His temper flares at the slightest provocation. His wife, Homer suffers, likewise their daughter. She is not having it any easier. They both miss “home.” They miss their community and understand that they’d have to build a new one but can’t do much about it, thanks to COVID and restrictions. Homer has made up her mind to go back to her family in Beirut, with or without Majd. Sounds familiar?

Often, this is an all-too-common immigrant family story.

Immigration truly comes with its challenges, one of which is disintegration of families. Many are faced with financial strain and disillusionment, stemming from poor integration into the Canadian society.

The trajectory may, however, not be the same. Various other factors threaten the peace of an immigrant family aside from finance. Sometimes, it could be the result of poor perception of one or both partners in any marriage. At other times, children (having or not having them), the stress of integration and others may be at the center of increased tension within a family.

But does immigration have to exert so much strain on family?

The Immigrant Life is here for many like Majd and Homer, and for you, dear immigrant. We share top tips that have helped immigrant families keep their families together, below:

  • Keep a tab on your finances

Here in Canada, as with other advanced economies, being jobless is not an option for an immigrant. Sweat, grit and grime come with the territory, even if it is a “survival job.” Living expenses are unforgiving. You never want to be in the middle of unfortunate happenstances. Encourage your partner to also embrace other job options that may not require leaving the home if there is a child to care for. Being employed will help you meet the needs of the family. It will keep emotions in check. It will keep tempers getting out of control.

  • Stay sane

Good mental health is key to survival. If you lose it, you may end up losing it all. Poor mental health leads to anxiety, irritability, aggression, and other negative feelings. The way out? Don’t be a social recluse.

Get some air! Get some exercise – jumping Jack, yoga, squats, brisk walk, stretches, dance to some fast-paced music, just jiggle away! Choose not to be lonely. Talk to someone – a friend, relative, counselor, therapist, anyone! Be that in person or virtual. Do whatever makes you happy, as long as you are not doing it at the expense of someone else.

  • Communication unlocks barriers. Keep it open and be deliberate at it

“Communication is what creates families. When family members communicate, they do more than send messages to each other – they enact their relationships.” (Anita Vangelisti, a professor at the University of Texas.)

For any immigrant, communication with loved ones may be in short supply because of the peculiarity of immigration and how it forces you to remain out of your home, or the demands of work keep you occupied. Be deliberate about it. Converse with your spouse, partner, children, consistently and regularly. Try not to bottle up your emotions.

COVID has kept everyone locked in for a very long time. No one should further close himself or herself in. Social media comes in handy during hard times. Make use of them to communicate with those that are important to you. Be more deliberate about communicating with your spouse in a more meaningful way. A touch, a smile, an eye contact, a hug, an embrace, playing soft music, etc. add passion to your communication. Be versatile in your relationship. Be creative in your communication.

  • Attend courses on lifestyle and relationship building

It doesn’t have to be a paid course. Since you care about your family, you need to step out of your comfort zone and get some education. Be open to finding new ways and getting help that will save your home. Surf the internet. Real help may just be near you.

  • Stop playing the victim

Choose to understand your partner’s schedule, relationship issues and activities. Be more understanding of his or her schedule and do more to find a way round it, to your family’s advantage.

  • Pray!

You can never do this wrong. Choose to pray to the Supreme Being who rules in the affairs of men. Ask God to intervene in an already worsening family situation and trust Him to do just that. Never be tired at the place of prayer. You draw inner strength and resilience from there.

As an immigrant, you can only thrive and contribute meaningfully to society if you are happy and feel better connected. When external factors tend to overwhelm, support is the most important need. Family is our biggest support system that we can always rely on. We must do all possible to keep it intact.

As always, The Immigrant Life is here for you. Connect with us. Contribute to the immigrant community.

The story is inspired by true events.

This article was written by Yinka Bakare

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