We all want to lead happy, successful lives. But for parents, there's a time when the priorities shift a bit, and the most important goals start to involve setting the kids up for success and happiness in their own lives. However we should stop and consider what constitutes a “happy and successful life”. That will depend on your own values, history and expectations.

Raising a child or a teenager is always challenging. But if on top of that we ask how to raise a child or teenager as an immigrant parent in Canada, that brings more things to consider.

First we need to consider if the children immigrated with their parents or if they were born in Canada. The children born in other countries they have they own reference of other culture, traditions, family support, school system, etc. while the ones born here they only have the experience of this country.

Second thing to consider is that many immigrant parents feel that their parenting ability is under serious stress in a number of ways: changing maternal and paternal work and family roles. It is common for male immigrants to undergo a loss in their work status, which they also experience as a loss of their status as head of the household. At the same time, immigrant women many times are compelled to seek employment, which may give them added status in the family. 

Third, other pressures on inter-generation relations in immigrant families emerge from the faster cultural adjustment of children, as compared to their parents and how their roles are affected. Many times the parents are going to rely on their children as translators or mediators reversing and shifting parental authority.

So considering these challenges, I go back to the question about what it is going to be a “happy and successful life” in Canada? Because the answer that each one of you give to this question is how your parenting will be affected, since this answer contains your expectations. Many immigrant youth feel torn between their desire to fit in with their peers and their desire to meet their parents’ expectations.

So being aware of your own expectations, here they are 6 suggestions for raising a Canadian:

  1. Try to develop rules and boundaries that fairly reflect both of the cultures your child is operating within. 
  2. Be vigilant for signs of bullying and encourage your child to talk about acceptance issues he or she is facing at school. Even we Canadian adults consider ourselves tolerant and integrative, kids and teenagers may be not so tolerant.
  3. If your child is finding it difficult to feel accepted at school, it may be helpful to connect him or her to other children who share his or her ethnic background.
  4. Work with your child to develop reasonable compromises.
  5. Encourage your child to communicate. When immigrant children have no formal educational instruction in their heritage language, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to discuss abstract concepts and complex issues with their parents as they mature. Set specific times and places to talk avoiding having “the conversations” at home where it is easy to disengage or to lose our temper.
  6. It is perfectly normal to seek professional help. Psychotherapy for you, for your kid or for all of you can help to open channels of communication and understanding.

Pablo Munoz