Eastern Children in the Western World

By Mehdi Rizvi Community Editorial Board, Toronto Star.

Immigrants to Canada in the 1950s and ’60s came mostly from European countries. Now the pattern has changed and, according to the 2006 census, 58.3 per cent of the 1.11 million immigrants who arrived in Canada in the last five years came from Asia and the Middle East.

These immigrants came with their customs, traditions and religious and social values, and their children are trained in Canadian schools to practise the qualities of honesty, mutual respect and tolerance to become good citizens.

The blending of the noble values of the two cultures gives them the best of both worlds. Canada has one of the planet’s best educational systems and parents feel fortunate that their children have the opportunity to get a good education.

On the other hand, children also are more susceptible to unfiltered cultural influences. The parental generation of Asian and Middle Eastern immigrants finds itself in a rare social predicament: the very quick assimilation of their children into a free society and, correspondingly, the fading of their own values.

Rearing eastern children in the western world is a great challenge, rather like growing a tropical plant in the Arctic, and requires determination, maturity and tolerance.

Many immigrant parents and their children have diametrically opposed views on important family and social issues, such as dress codes, moving out before marriage or mixed marriages.

Many immigrant parents are careful about dietary practices – kosher, halal, vegetarian – but their children may not follow rigorous standards.

Nor can it be easy for Sikh parents to welcome a clean-shaven, kirpan- and turban-less young man into the family, or for Muslim parents to be pleased with their daughter’s Jewish boyfriend, or vice versa. They think these cross-cultural matches reduce the longevity of a partnership and subsequently produce more broken families, single parents and neglected children. A nuclear family needs common values to survive, they believe.

Asian and Middle Eastern immigrant parents do not generally accept sleepovers at a friend’s house, late nights out and returning home with the rising sun the next morning.

They are concerned about shootings, drug- and sex-related crimes and teenage pregnancies. Canadian parents are no happier with these phenomena and realize that too much freedom and the absence of parental and social control are among the main causes.

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