Moving to a new country and adapting to a new culture is difficult. You may have to learn a new language, get used to eating new types of food, maybe adjust your driving style and you’ll certainly run into a few major differences in how to conduct yourself in society.
For many immigrants to the United States, one of the major changes they have to go through is raising their children differently than how they themselves were raised. And for Asian immigrants, that can sometimes mean getting used to raising their children in a less strict environment than they are used to children being raised in.
Raising children in a country that you are new to is a balancing act of letting them be full members of the new country while also teaching them about where their family comes from. School will handle teaching them about the history and culture of the US and all its various facets, but to give your children a good understanding of their Asian heritage, that will be up to you to do at home.
Let’s look at a few different ways you can maintain this balance of teaching your kids about their Asian roots while still letting them be Americans.
Perhaps the most difficult thing to do, you will have to first accept that you are now living in a different culture and things are bound to be different in your new homeland. Social norms will be different, behavior will be different, the way people interact with each other will be different. Only once you accept that you will have to adapt to your new home can you reach that balance of teaching your kids about their Asian heritage while also letting them grow and belong to the culture they were born and raised in.
Understanding the new culture you are living in is key to being able to live in it harmoniously. You’ve likely done a lot of reading before you decided to emigrate and you should continue to learn as much as you can about your new country and the social norms in it. If you don’t, it could lead to conflict with your kids later on. If you’re not used to a certain behavior, but it is common in your new country, your children are likely to adopt that type of behavior whether you are aware of it or not. It’s better to be prepared.
While it can be daunting to try and make friends when there is a language barrier to overcome, do what you can to be involved in your community and meet people who were born and raised there so you can get used to it. Your children are going to be born and raised into this new culture, so the more used to it you are, the better for both you and your kids.
That’s not to say you have to adapt everything about this new culture into your parenting style. You may still prefer parenting the way you yourself were parented, but if you know more about your newly adopted homeland, you will be able to avoid conflict with your kids who are being raised in a completely different society than you were.
Consider a small amount of homeschooling
As mentioned previously, it will be up to you to teach your children about the culture and history of your country of origin. While you don’t need to set up a classroom in your home, you might want to see if you can find some children’s books about your original country’s culture and start reading to them to your kids when they’re young.
As they grow, you can suggest books and movies for them that showcase your origin country’s history and culture and explain why you feel it is important for them to learn about it.
Teach them the language
Although you will want to practice your English if you are a new citizen in the United States, speaking your mother tongue at home will help your kids become familiar with it and learn it as they grow. They will of course require some more formalized learning as they become older to truly learn the language.
Often, once kids hit school and are surrounded by English all day they will stop using other languages, so you may need to push them a little. Remember that the more languages a person knows, the better their chances of success. They may see it as a burden to learn a language that they don’t really use outside the home, but learning languages helps with overall cognitive development and opens more doors for people.
Go to cultural events and organizations
The beauty about living in the United States is the plethora of cultures in the country. If you look, you can probably find a cultural event or organization from the place where you originally come from. These are great opportunities for young people to learn about the culture of the country you emigrated from and mingle with other people who share that culture.
If you can’t find an event or organization, maybe you could be the person to start one? If you can find other people who come from the same country as you and who share the same cultural heritage, you might be able to start a group to keep your cultural traditions alive in your new homeland and pass those along to your kids.
Emigrating to the USA does not mean having to completely let go of your Asian heritage. It is something you should cherish and share with your children and encourage them to pass along to their children. By finding a balance between teaching them their heritage and letting them fully embrace the culture of their home, you can give them the best of both worlds.