Children of immigrants represent hope and are the trailblazers to the possibleLupita G.
A couple of months ago I began a study to better understand how mental health effects the immigrant community. I have learned so much in this process. One of the things I have better understood is the relationship between the immigrant parent and their first generation American children. It is something that does not compare to other parent child relationships.
The stress, and difficult moments immigrants have to face on a daily basis effects the way their children are raised. These children are raised praying every time a police officer is near by for fear their parents will get deported. They grow up wondering if their parents will be home when they leave for work. They can see the pain in their parents even though it is never expressed. They are exposed to the realities of the legal system many times before they go to their first sleep over. This is something that American families will never have to experience. No child should have to experience this because it changes you. It changed many of these now young adults.
The extraordinary thing is that even though many of these young adults didn’t know in detail their parents stories when I asked them,” in knowing what your parents have been through, has that effected what you pursue in life and how you pursued it?” Unanimously they all said yes! Why?!
These young adults understood one important thing, their parents gave so many sacrifices to give them a better life. Them knowing their parents risked their life, they gave up their dreams to be able to give them an opportunity to dream, that is priceless! They feel in some ways in debt with their parents. This gives them purpose, and fire.
I can relate with how they feel. Even though I am an immigrant and not a U.S. born, I too feel the obligation to be something great to prove that my parents’ sacrifices were not in vain. My responsibility as the first in my family to have a legal status is big. The pressure to provide a road to success for the whole family use to give me anxiety. I want to make my parents proud.
On the other hand though because I am an immigrant myself and had to face deportation and had to fight for my chance to stay, I understand what many immigrant parents feel. I also hope that my sacrifices and fight will allow my children, first generation American, to go further in life. I don’t however, want them to feel the pressure to become someone because they feel in debt with me.
I saw many of these young adults express how stressed they were to make their parents proud, and I saw how many parents hoped they provided enough for their children. Two generations living in silence! The Latino and many of the immigrant communities naturally have a strong family bond. But I believe facing monsters such as the legal system brings them even closer. They fight together but they hide their pain from each other. Enough! We must really open up to each other so our fight for a better tomorrow can be more effective. So, how can these young adults face the pressure of needing to become someone for their families.
I know it may feel daunting to speak up. The fear of coming across as ungrateful, weak, or crazy is difficult but don’t forget they are your parents and they love you and at the end of the day they are so proud. You can follow this next technique to make this conversation easier.
1. Thank you
Showing appreciation for what they have been through and the sacrifices they have made allows you to not come across as ungrateful. It also helps them put their guard down.
As them about their experiences. Get to know their story on a deeper level. Ask questions to understand their state of mind. things like , ” What went through your mind when…” or “how did that make you feel when…” Remind them you want to understand their story. Allow them to be vulnerable.
Share how you feel. Try to use the same level of words to describe your pain. Sometimes using words like depression, anxiety are not effective because that’s not everyday vocabulary to them. When I asked many of the parents to describe depression or anxiety they had a difficult time finding words to describe it. Use similar words as the ones they used to describe their struggle. They will then understand that you are hurting or feel the pressure just like they once did.
Let them know you will do your best to make them proud. Ask what you need from them. Then ask what they need from you. Remember, you guys are a unit. The more you open communication the more yo will accomplish.
Your parents might not open up on the first try. You must continue to try. Don’t give up. Also, having open communication with anyone is not a one time thing. You must continuously have that open communication. Remember many times we want to be understood but we don’t want to understand. Keep working on your communication.
Now that you have a open communication remember how much they have done. They have done so much for you to have an opportunity to dream. Allow them to dream as well. Ask them what their dream is, encourage them to follow them. Remember together you can do this!
Note: if you would like to know more about the study and why I am conducting it check out Getting to know my people
Written by: Lupita G.
📸by: nypl.org /financialtribune.com/roni sison