Parenting is a new world in itself. Many feel utterly unprepared for the life upheaval, the exhaustion, the changing roles and, of course, for the overwhelming, all consuming love that comes with it. But what about parenting in a new world?

To commemorate World Refugee Day we asked parents who have been forced to flee the countries where they were raised what it’s like to raise their own kids in a country with a different language, with different approaches to parenting, different cultures and different resources.

Their answers are a beautiful portrait of parents bridging their past and present to create a better future for their children.

They’re portraits of love.

Sandra

What brought you here to Australia?

I came because of the war in my country Syria.

What did you find most challenging about being a parent in a new country?

Raising children in Australia is very different from raising children in my country, from small details such as the time we eat and sleep to the way of living and thinking.

It was a challenge for me, to change my thinking, to open my eyes and mind to everything around me. I also needed recognise there are some closed ways of thinking from my community, and to break those patterns with my son.

I want to mix the best things from my culture with the new things here.

Are there different approaches to parenting that you have noticed here?

People seem to have more patience in dealing with their children.

Children are not the property of the parents. There are no restrictions from the society and religions. Children can have opinions and right to choose.

The children can live their childhood, playing in nature and sport and are not living in a war. There are no sins and taboos or fear of speaking about sex. There is a different approach to education, and children respect difference.

Are there particular challenges or worries you have in raising your child?

I was worried Australians would judge me or my son because we are refugees.

Even when people mean well, it can feel bad. People can automatically think we need to be helped, or are in need of compassion, even when we are OK.

Just because I am a mother from Syria, it doesn’t mean I am not knowledgeable or liberated.  When people think I don’t know what is best for my child, it has a terrible effect.

Otherwise, I am happy because my son is in Australia and can grow up in an open society. 

Is there anything you have noticed as being universal for parents raising children no matter where they are from?

Love. Try doing the best for kids.

What message would you give to new Australians raising kids here?

Do not deny the past nor reject the future. Accept change, and do not get stuck in your routines.

Try to integrate into Australian society, do not be afraid to change for the better, to be free from restrictions.

Try to take the best of your community and the best of your new country and mix it to make it your own, with respect.

Love everything and everyone even if they are different than you

Hoy

What brought you here to Australia?

I fled the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia so we fled to Thailand.

I ended up in the refugee camps and applied for asylum status getting accepted to America but I got tired waiting for over 3 years so we accepted to go to Australia instead.

What did you find most challenging about being a parent in a new country?

I had to learn English, I had to look after my children, take them to school and I had to find a job as a single parent. I worked for over 17 years helping women escaping domestic violence.

My life in Cambodia was always much harder than anything I have been through in Australia. In Australia theres always support, I’m happy here.

Are there different approaches to parenting that you have noticed here? 

Australian parents are very different, they have a better way of bringing their children up.

Our culture probably doesn't give their children as much attention, children usually have to grow up very fast. Cambodians have much more responsibility at a younger age.

I was not allowed to go to school as I was a girl and my dad didn't want me reading love letters from boys.

Are there particular challenges or worries you have in raising a girl?

I was happy as I always wanted daughters.

It was very hard to afford but I wanted my daughters to go to get a good education. I wanted them to have good influences and be loved.

Is there anything you have noticed as being universal for parents raising children no matter where they are from?

Love, its universal — well I think 80% of people have this and 20% probably not.

What message would you give to new Australians raising kids here?

I tell parents, especially mothers to love their children, don’t hit your children or treat them badly, give them as much love as you can.

Fatima*

What brought you here to Australia?

I came to Australia in 2010 to visit my sister and explore more about Christianity as it is banned in Iran due to it being an Islamic Republic country. I decided to stay here to live and practice my religion freely.

What did you find most challenging about being a parent in a new country?

Raising the children in a new country is so challenging due to the different culture and different parenting system. It's not easy to justify between your culture and Australian culture in terms of parenting especially when they are teenagers.

Another challenge is not being familiar with Australian laws and a parent's responsibilities. For example we don't have child protection in Iran and parents have full authority over their children until they are 18 years old. 

Are there different approaches to parenting that you have noticed here? 

Giving more freedom to children is one of the differences which I noticed in parenting style in Australia. In Iran children are under full authority of their parents and they decide about their children until 18 years old. Also after 18 years old, girls can't live with their boyfriends until they are officially married, however it's different in Australia.

Are there particular challenges or worries you have in raising a girl? 

Different culture was one of my big challenges especially in terms of protecting my daughter from boys and teaching her how to protect herself and not letting others put her down and use her.

What message would you give to new Australians raising kids here?

Educate themselves and their daughters to make a balance between the good and bad in both cultures. Being flexible to accept more moderate parenting strategies regardless of the stigma in their own culture – they are living in a new country and children are more keen to accept Australian culture rather than the family culture. I believe that we can get closer to our children if we educate ourselves and our children to follow morality and ethics and they will be more adaptable with Australian community. Our children experience some stresses which comes after migration and we need to support them in the whole process.

*name has been changed

Vesna

What brought you here to Australia?

There are unfortunate times in people lives that they do not choose. These times bring impossible situations to live where you are born, because what once was normal life becomes nightmare and fear.

Everything changes from relationship to self-belief once your basic life rights are lost. In those situations people try to find refuge where they can establish new life from the beginning. That can be far, like a different continent. 

What did you find most challenging about being a parent in a new country?

It is a very new experience to be a parent and act as a “child” in front of your own child because you do not speak language spoken in the country you find yourself living in. Being already in your late thirties occupied with thousand thoughts on how to establish many things that your family needs to function, the most frustrating thing was the fear – that lack of time and state of mind “constant stress” will not make it possible to learn language in a form to be functional.  In those situations you do not see yourself as a very confident parent.

Are there different approaches to parenting that you have noticed here?

Yes there are. Being a parent, bringing a child to the world you feel responsible for their future in all respects. Children need the company of friends the same age group. Usually those friends would be kids from the same school. Most of the time a parent has to drive their child to a destination and pick them up. It is not convenient for children to walk to the school with their friends. So there is a lack of physical and social interaction in that sense. There is also tendency to support children to buy their lunches instead to have them home made.

Are there particular challenges or worries you have in raising a girl?

In today’s world we expect girls/young women to be educated, to contribute equally in a work place as boys/young men do. We teach them to follow us and to make sure the family home is maintained as well as all the domestic duties. That is a lot to put on the young girl and to expect from her. But as a parent you have to prepare them for the challenges of today’s living and hope that they will meet a partner who can support and appreciate the values and expectations that young women face today.

Is there anything you have noticed as being universal for parents raising children no matter where they are from?

To be able to live a productive life children take part in community and school activities through learning and playing. Every parent encourages their child to invest as much through that process so that there is more opportunity in the future through employment. That way your child is safe and also you as a parent have peace of mind.

What message would you give to new Australians raising kids here?

Being new in a country require enormous energy and time in terms of finding the place to live, learning a new language and culture, earning money for living, learning where to go shopping, where to go to the doctor… Even with all that, once we are parents, we must remember that our kids are only kids for a certain period of time. Kids grow very quickly, especially for busy parents. Kids are the future of the family and we need to remember to love them, teach them family values, play with them, make simple picnics with homemade nourishing food, read to them, walk in the park or at the beach. Do not blame yourself for not having money for holidays, it is normal, just time spent together is what it counts. 

These are created memories and moments, that strengthen relationships between parents and children and shape their young lives. These are the most precious investments parents can make. 

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To the wonderful mothers who shared your stories with us, thank you. We hope that by sharing these stories, parents in a new world and parents with generations behind them alike can continue to build bonds through the love we share for our kids. If you’re parenting in a new world, we’d love to hear your stories on social media to celebrate World Refugee Day.

To mark the day, we’re supporting families overseas who have been displaced. You can help give a gift of hope to families who have been impacted by conflict and disasters. Donate today.

We’re bringing together a community that is raising global citizens by sharing knowledge and experiences and empowering young people to reach their full potential. If you’d like to be a part of it, sign up here.

 

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