Immigrant Children – Caught Between Two Cultures

By Wanda Parker

The struggles of immigrant children is not new to America.  I remember my father speaking of his own struggle being raised by Swedish immigrant parents.  It is difficult to be growing up in/living in one culture while your parents cling to another culture.

Imagine what it is like for a pre-teen going through a typical American pre-teen’s struggle – but her parents have no understanding of how to deal with this struggle.  It is totally foreign to them.  The child and parents live in two totally different paradigms.

Where does the child go for support, wisdom, direction?

I got a call from a Center Director this past week asking for advice (let’s call her Angela).  A girl, we’ll call her Johanna, told Angela something in confidence that was important for the parents to know.  She was terrified to talk to her parents because she knew they wouldn’t be able to understand and they would be angry.

Angela and I brainstormed every possible scenario; she finally decided to tell Johanna she had to talk to her parents about this.  Johanna cried and said they wouldn’t understand, they would get angry.  “Miss Angela why can’t you just take care of it?  You can do it.” she cried.  Angela told Johanna that she was going to speak to her parents alone without Johanna there. 

The purpose for speaking to the parents alone was to allow them to vent their initial emotions – which if Johanna had been there she would have totally misinterpreted.  Angela then helped them to see things from Johanna’s paradigm. 

As Angela was sharing with me what had happened she laughed and said that in the beginning she so wanted to get everything out she realized shewas speaking too fast so stopped an asked, “Am I speaking too fast?  Can you understand me.”  The mother indicated with the movement of her head they were having difficulty understanding. 

Angela slowed down and took them step by step through everything.  There were emotions adults go through when their child is struggling.  But with Angela there they were able to ask questions, to state they didn’t understand why this was so important to their child – “it wasn’t like this in our country.” 

Angela told some of her own stories growing up in America, she told stories of siblings who had experienced similar things, and she shared how her parents had responded.  Helping these immigrant parents to understand this was not foreign in America.

“Will you help us find the help we need?” the mother asked.

  It is difficult for immigrant parents to find the assistance they need as they battle the language barrier.  Both these parents speak English but feel intimidated when they have to maneuver through bureaucracies.

But what would have happened if Angela hadn’t been there to walk with Johanna and her parents through this struggle?  What kind of barrier would have grown between Johanna and her parents because they couldn’t understand each other?

This is another reason why KidTrek is passionate about placing Missionaries in churches to come alongside of Families-At-High-Risk.

KidTrek needs your help to make this possible across America.  Will you join the Walk?

Giving Warriors – click here

Prayer Warriors – click here

Volunteer – click here to find a center that may  be close to you

Is Christ calling you to become a Missionary?  click here for more information

For another post on Immigrant Childre click here 

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