Over the past few decades many South Asian parents have taken the daring step to immigrate to the West to give their next generation better opportunities and a brighter future. When I moved to Canada I had to gauge and make many choices as a mother, which my own mother did not face. After tiptoeing through five years I dare to claim the following five ways how parenting needs to change when you move to North America.
1. Embrace that your child is more Western than South Asian
While I may tell my kids a million stories from ‘back home,’ I need to accept that this new country is now their home. This means that I now need to concentrate also on making memories with them in this new world. For our family we have taken on activities that were not popular as a child growing up in South Asia such as hiking, tobogganing and ice staking.
2. Make a conscious effort to introduce culture and religion to your children
Back home, parents don’t have to make special efforts to introduce their culture and religion to children. There is a lot happening in the environment for children to be naturally immersed through religious celebrations, school performances and of course, our never-ending wedding seasons.
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Now here in Canada I jump at any festival, party or celebration which may give my children a glimpse of my childhood culture. Bollywood movies have also been a great way to connect my children to our South Asian roots.
3. Don’t foster a ‘Them’ vs ‘Us’ mentality
We are all part of the same society, and unless we accept that my kids and I will never integrate. This does not mean that we let go of our identity but rather accept everyone. My girls love having their class fellows over for chaand raat and mehndi. It is adorable to see their friends from various ethnic origins, rocking their henna hands.
4. Reevaluate criteria for your child’s performance
Back home having the highest grades gets the kid into a top university. In North America good citizenship, volunteering, and extracurricular activities are important to build a well-rounded personality and prepare your child for success. How you view your child’s performance in school is critical in how parenting needs to change when you move to North America.
5. Be the example that your kids need
I see much conflict in South Asian mothers who have moved to the West. I regularly get asked, “What were you thinking by bringing three daughters to the West? How will you get them married?”
All these statements should be left back home. Be the example that your kids can follow. Coming from a South Asian culture, where we have specific definitions of how a male or female should act, it can be difficult to find middle ground. In my family, I have found communication to be the best tool and reaching a point where both the parents and kids can agree.
Our parenting styles keep evolving and adjusting over the years. Are there any particular changes that you saw yourself making? What do you think about how parenting needs to change when you move to North America?