Most refugee families make the difficult decision to resettle in a strange country for the sake of their children, seeking safety, security and opportunity. Like American parents, they hope for their children’s lives to be better than their own. Yet, the realities of raising children in a new country can be daunting as parents navigate the challenges of language acquisition, employment, family role changes, and the more rapid acculturation of their children.
Refugee parents arrive in the U.S. with experience and dedication to raising their children, but sometimes these skills must be contextualized according to U.S. parenting norms.
Supervision expectations, discipline methods, parent-school interactions, matters of safety, health and nutrition can all have differing interpretations in varied cultures. Newcomer mothers and fathers rely on the parenting skills with which they are most familiar: those from their home country. A commonplace discipline or supervision method in West Africa or Southeast Asia could be interpreted differently in the U.S., resulting in child welfare intervention in the most extreme situations.
Definitions of appropriate parenting behavior vary by culture, and by community, necessitating education for refugee and immigrants about U.S. parenting norms and requiring cultural sensitivity by American human service workers.
Other family strengthening services may assist refugees with integration and daily functioning, such as literacy development, culturally relevant child care, family preservation services, marriage development, and parent-child programming. Since most refugee families experience some form of family separation, the following services also support overall family functioning and resilience: helping families deal with the changes wrought by separation; aiding relatives in establishing legal guardianship for non-biological children in their care; and assisting families in reuniting with relatives, support overall family functioning.
BRYCS’ family strengthening resources can be used to aid newcomer parents in understanding U.S. childrearing expectations, to build and support refugee family stability, and to promote collaboration with ethnic community organizations, in order to support and strengthen refugee family relationships as they integrate into American society.