Immigrant parents

Basma Alawee and family by lake

How immigrant parents help their kids learn about two cultures.

I was a blessed child. First, I was raised by my teachers. Yes, my parents were both teachers and they knew how to raise a child. And, I grew up in Iraq where most of my ancestors are, so I was a privileged child. I am worried about my kids as one of their two immigrant parents.

I want my kids to fit in, but at the same time, I want them to keep our culture and tradition.

I am sure this concerns most immigrant parents. My kids’ classmates  and teachers notice right away when the new school year starts that they are the children of immigrant parents.

Let me give you some examples:

  • We are not fans of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches.
  • Our names sound different.
  • Our pronunciation of certain words a little off.
  • We do not do sleep over.
  • We do not necessarily celebrate all American holidays.

I sometimes feel sad for my kids because there is a lot of why and how, but I try my best to not make them feel they are so much different.

I was lucky that within the first 5 years after I immigrated to the USA,  I became a teacher. I taught all levels and mostly all subjects because I wanted to be a good immigrant parent. I wanted to learn the school system and all that comes with it: homework, types of school, ratings, law, and a lot more.

I can say that I became a better mom after I became a teacher.

My advice to all immigrant parents is to learn about schools before their kids go to school. That means sometimes volunteering in schools or joining the PTA in your kids’ school. It can mean eating lunch with your kids and their friends, or even maybe talking to the teacher about organizing a day when you could teach your kid class about your culture, food, and how you and your family emigrated.  All of these things increase your kids’ confidence. They are more likely to be proud of who they are and where they came from.

I do not encourage sleep overs, but we do play days in public parks. I do not celebrate Halloween but I let my kids share a healthy snack with their classrooms. We also encourage our kids always to be part of the community, to participate in community services, and take the lead in school projects.

As immigrant parents, we do not have a lot of dates as a married couple, because we do not have family members to watch our kids.

If you say, get a babysitter so you can have a date night – well, we’d rather spend that money to pay for a family dinner for the kids and us.

As immigrant parents, we always hear from our families that our kids should learn how to speak, read and write our first language, but they might not know it costs a lot to put them in those classes. We do feel sad that our kids do not master our first language, but … their first language is not our first language. All I can advise about that is keep speaking to them in your home language and if you have some saved money, invest in language classes.

For all immigrant parents, hats off! We are all doing a great job.

Let’s keep investing in our children’s education and teaching them that we are all America.

Opinions expressed and advice given in USAHello’s Voices and Hello blogs are the writers’ own. USAHello offers impartial information and online courses to help newcomers in the USA.