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Parenting across cultures has particular challenges. Sometimes children and their parents or carers have different ideas about how to balance the values and expectations of two cultures. When children have a sense of belonging to both cultures it supports positive mental health and wellbeing. The following suggestions may assist you and your children to achieve a positive sense of belonging in both cultures.
Celebrate your own culture
Developing a positive sense of cultural identity supports children’s self-esteem and their sense of belonging. By telling stories and sharing customs you can help children to connect with their cultural heritage. It is important to talk to children in ways that are appropriate for their age and interest. Knowing and taking pride in their own heritage can help children feel comfortable and secure with their identity.
Build social networks
Friendships and social networks are important both for children and for families, helping them to feel part of the community. Making connections with local people is important for feeling welcomed and building a sense of belonging in Australian society. Your connections may be with your own cultural group or you may prefer to build your connections with another cultural group. Your child’s school can be a great meeting point for parents and carers where long-term friendships develop.
Get to know your child’s school
Becoming involved in your child’s school is a great way for families to feel connected to their community. There are often opportunities to participate in school events which may help you to get to know your child’s school and the school community. Forming relationships with school staff can also help you to feel like you belong. For instance, having a good relationship with your child’s teachers will allow you to ask questions about your child’s progress, and share your cultural background with them. When families and teaching staff develop relationships, they are more likely to understand each other’s perspectives, talk through concerns and support children together.
Learn about parenting in Australia
Some parenting practices may be quite different in different cultures. Finding out about parenting practices and expectations in Australia, including things like legal requirements of parents and supports available, can help you work out the best ways to manage problems that may arise. Many families from culturally diverse backgrounds ﬁnd that blending the best parenting ideas and practices from both cultures is very helpful.
Children can feel confused when the values and behaviours expected at home seem to be different from what happens with their friends. It is helpful to be ﬂexible when deciding on rules and expectations so you can take into account any difﬁ culties your children may be facing. Listening to your children and talking openly about the concerns they may have regarding different expectations for school and home means that solutions can be found through understanding and compromise.
Adjusting to a new life after migration has lots of challenges for both families and children. Establishing a secure and caring home environment helps to provide children with a sense of stability. Finding people who understand you and can support you as you settle in is really important. It is also often very important to access the help that is available through government agencies, community organisations and English language programs.
Getting help in your own language can be especially important at times of stress or when dealing with complex issues. Many community organisations around Australia provide speciﬁc support and advice from a cultural perspective. Some organisations offer regular meetings or short courses to help with parenting or other family issues.