Every immigrant parent who has moved to a new country has come here with hopes, expectations and intentions of creating a better life. There are dreams and long-term plans to start a journey that will be ‘successful’ and comfortable not only for themselves and their children, but also for their future generations.
However, with the challenges of starting a new life in a new country, many immigrant families tend to be understandably overwhelmed during the survival stage and aspects such as parenting tend to be neglected. For immigrants, parenting like all other roles is usually ‘dealt with’ when an issue arises. During this survival stage, there is no luxury of time to truly nurture your relationships with your children – or is there? I would argue that there is.
Like most things during these early stages of adaptation and transition as newcomers, parents tend to forget that many negative issues can be prevented all together. For example, the role of parenting goes beyond feeding your children, or dealing with a bad report card or misbehaviour. Many ‘issues’ can in fact be prevented altogether. And immigrant parents can shift their views on the role of parenting to be more accountable, transparent, inspiring and meaningful.
With factors such as having little to no time with little money, it is natural for immigrant parents to fulfill the most important tasks such as finding survival jobs to pay for bills, to feed and support families. But time & effort needs to also be given towards developing and nurturing a quality relationship with your children. This is where I often ask newcomer parents – what is more important: taking an extra job to provide more comforts, once the basic needs are fulfilled or to use that extra time to spend with your child?
Traditionally, parenting was viewed as a role providing food, shelter, clothing and basic physical, emotional, economic needs. But fulfilling these needs do become difficult when newcomers are already dealing with transition and trying to create a new identity while they are still grieving the loss of their previous countries, lifestyles, support systems, traditional customs, values and beliefs. The role of parenting also becomes more complex as parents begin to shift how they perceive and respond to the changing beliefs, views, and expectations towards parenting.
Parents are now realizing the importance of having positive, engaging, relevant and meaningful relationships with their children. While doing so, they are also beginning to shift some of their learned traditional ways of parenting. This is not to say that Eastern methods of parenting are backwards or archaic – but saying that since we are in a different culture, generation, and time – that perhaps parents can find a tailored and more effective style of child-focused parenting which meets their children’s individual needs.
Essentially we are going beyond simply bridging the Eastern and Western cultures and using more universal styles of parenting. For example, our approach to meeting our children’s needs must be more unique, and different to how our own emotional, mental and spiritual needs were met when we were children. Once parents can meet the basic needs such as shelter, food, clothing, then other these other needs can be fulfilled as well.
Through extensive knowledge and experience, we are realizing just how significant parents truly are in their children’s lives. Parents are not only responsible for providing for their child’s basic needs in growth and development, but they serve as very influential people throughout their children’s lives as role models. This is where challenging age-old adages such as, ”Do as I say and not as I do.” is a process of creating an open and engaging parenting style. Many immigrant parents have lived by this old saying without realizing the negative impact that it has on the future thoughts, behaviours, and actions of their children.
Along with meeting your child’s needs comes the concept of unconditional love. Traditionally, parents learned to use their love as currency to encourage positive results and success in our children. But we are now truly finding how many problems have been created with this form of conditional parenting. Studies are repeatedly finding that those children who were raised in unconditional loving homes tended to have better self-confidence, self-esteem, resilience, and tended to give that unconditional love back in all their relationships. Moreover these children tended to be well-balanced and happier throughout their lives.
So parenting, is not as easy or simple as it may have been when our parents or grandparents took on this profound work. However, it has remained one of the most challenging and inspiring ‘jobs’. As you can see, parenting styles must universally bridge the Eastern and the Western cultural parenting styles of becoming more open, fair, and accountable. As a society we are demanding that organizations and companies are more transparent, accountable, and inspiring – just as we are in our parenting styles.