Raising Children in AmericaJanuary 28, 2016
By Lorena Villa Parkman
Moving to a new country is a complicated journey, especially when adapting to a new culture and following a different set of social rules. Families encounter new values that may conflict with their culture’s values. Not only do parents have to adapt to the changes, but they must also balance old customs with new ones for their children.
Here are a couple of things you may encounter in American culture. Consider how to merge your home country’s values with those here to help your child acclimate.
Dating at a younger age
In the U.S., children start dating more seriously in high school. It is generally considered normal to let two teenagers go to the movies together, go out to dinner alone, or go as a couple to a school event like prom.
Of course, it’s your right to decide what rules you set before you let your child go out with a romantic interest. If you allow your child to date, you might ask him or her to call during the evening to check in and speak with other parents about what they do to keep their children safe while dating.
Your elementary school child might be invited to sleepovers at friends’ houses. Usually the host family prepares activities for the kids to enjoy, like movies, games, and snacks.
If you feel a bit uneasy, ask the host family what they are planning for the night. Leave your phone number so they can reach you if your child feels homesick during the night or if something else happens.
Talk to your child before the sleepover, assuring him or her that you will pick them up if they are uncomfortable. You can also call to check in on your child before bedtime if you’d like.
Parent engagement in school
In some cultures, talking to or questioning teachers or school authorities is seen as disrespectful. But in the U.S., parents are expected to be involved in school and to talk to teachers about their concerns.
Parents can call or email the teacher at any time to discuss their child’s academic and social progress. Don’t feel intimidated—rather, take this opportunity to advocate for your child’s education.
Leaving home to live on campus
In some countries, teenagers live with their parents when they go to college (if they study in the same city). In the U.S., leaving home to go to college is seen as a rite of passage. In some universities, it’s even mandatory to live on campus for at least the first year of college.
See this as a great opportunity for your child to be independent, learn how to tackle daily life chores, and encounter new experiences and cultures.
It’s difficult to get used to a new normal in American culture, but work with other parents to establish trust and do what feels right to you. Build confidence and learn more about your adoptive country—you will be able to help your child with any obstacle he or she encounters in their journey toward success in America.