Immigrant blues

Global Counselor,

 I am 15 years old. My parents are new immigrants and are now learning English. I speak good English because I learn from my friends. I learn a lot of things from my Canadian friends and that helps me to feel more confident and to know how to go about my life here is this new country. We have been here for two years now. I have a brother and a sister. They are only 7 and 5 years old. My mom said that after they got me they did not want to get another child in  Afghanistan because they were waiting to leave for another country. Anyways my problem is that my parents do not want me to have a life, my life is to take care of my brother and sister all the time. All my friends can go shopping at the mall, or for an ice cream or something but not me. My parents say I have to look after my brother and sister.  One of my friends tells me that I could tell Child and Family Services and they will take me out of the house and put me to live with other family where I will get more freedom. I love my family and they are good to me but they say it is my duty to take care of my brother and sister.  They also said that girls should not be out walking and having fun because it is not how girls behave in our culture.  We get into fights all the time and I am tired. One day I lied to my mom. I told her I had to join a program to learn better English and in the meantime, I went with my friends. They found out what I was doing and beat me. I could not leave the house for two weeks. I am still mad with my parents. If they give me some free time I would not have to lie. How can I get my parents to give me some free time to have fun with my friends?

Mad

 

Dear Mad,

Have patience with your parents. They are new to the country and are still trying to hold on to their culture.  Maybe that is how girls are treated in Afghanistan and maybe it the duty of older siblings to take care of the younger ones. In many parts of the world people cannot afford to pay babysitters so they depend on family members and older siblings to help out. Your parents are still adjusting to how different it is in Canadabut they will learn in time. I know it is frustrating for you because you want to have fun now.

   It might be helpful to speak to someone who has lived in Canada for a longer time and ask them to speak to your parents.  Having you look after your siblings all the time could be interpreted by Family Services as a kind of abuse.  Speak to someone from your cultural group or from a service providing agency to tell your parents that is normal for girls to go out.  Keep having conversations with your parents, help them to trust you and to see that you are responsible and will not do anything foolish.  Do what you say you are going to do, return home at the time you say and do invite your friends over.  When they know your friends, they might be more willing to allow you to go out for a walk or to a movie with them.  I am glad you did not listen to those friends who tried to tell you go and live with foster parents or in a group home. Being home with your parents is the best place for you to be, unless your parents are extremely abusive people and risk hurting you, I suggest you remain at home and be a little understanding. Use your knowledge of English to help them understand Canadian culture and what is good about it.  Finally you have to earn your parents’ trust by being truthful, listen to what they say, keep their curfew i.e. come home when you say you will and let them know where you are going. Things will change in time, I promise you that.

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