Mother’s Day – The story of Netsai
24th March 2017
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Parenting in a foreign country

Silhouette, happy children with mother and father, family at sunset, summertime

P Parenting is a difficult challenge for anyone. Immigrant parents find their roles and relationships with their children change, and these children are vulnerable to a number of risk factors especially during adolescence that diminish the influence of the parents in the acculturation process.

There are many risk factors which include Language issues including a linguistic separation between parents and children which becomes symbolic of a profound emotional separation. Children at times do not speak the same language as their parents as they adopt the language from their host nation.

Economic stressors in which the main reason for which many families emigrate, i.e., economic betterment, becomes the source of greatest stress. Parents often work long hours and spend very little time with their children. One of the service users who MFS were assisting said “All they do is go to work. They think that working and earning is an expression of love. It means nothing to me. I have found acceptance in the gangs. The gang members are now my family, I hope they find the pound they are searching for.“

Differing parenting practices including the challenge of raising their children in a new seemingly unsupportive and permissive culture. Migrant Parents have expressed frustration at not being able to mete out corporal punishment. They are often frustrated as they feel that they cannot discipline their children effectively. MSF conducts courses where parents can discuss the challenges they face in discipling children and have alternative methods of enforcing boundaries. It is important for us to prevent the issues that often escalate to children ending up in care, prison or being sent to the country of origin against their will. Parents need to invest time into adopting effective parenting styles in line with the culture and within the confines of the law in the UK. Education is key as it is important to know how to discipline children. One of our key areas of focus is encouraging parents to balance love and discipline.


I dentity development where the adolescent identity process can be stressed by the difficulties inherent in negotiating two cultures and the perception of not fitting well into the new mainstream culture. Identity development is a very important area that is affecting many young people One of the young people who we support at MFS highlighted that their mum often says “ Outside it is UK and UK rules apply but in this house it is Zimbabwe rules and laws that apply “. He said that this statement causes so much confusion in his life and he feels like he does not belong anywhere. MSF hosts events where young people can meet other young people of similar backgrounds with the same challenges. We have found that having peer support is very important and helps the young people to fit in. We work with parents to try and highlight the importance of reinforcing values and a sense of identity in their children.

Parenting involves transmitting culture and values to children and many immigrant parents were well-prepared for parenting in their original culture and country. They had a well-defined sense of ethnic identity and knew how things should be in their culture of origin. They had a strong family support network that provided help and parented together. However, these same parents may feel lost or at least off balance here in the United Kingdom where the differing values and expectations of this new culture may not be well understood. Immigrant parents find their roles and relationships with their children change, and their parenting ability is placed under significant stress in a number of ways in the new culture. These parents experience economic and social stress as they attempt to cope with the tasks of daily life without the familiar support system of family and friends and the comfort of their culture of origin. Such problems as unemployment, underemployment, multiple job holding, shifts in gender-based economic roles, language acquisition differences, realignment of parental authority, role reversal issues, separation of family members, influence of peer culture on children, and interfacing with social institutions are just a sampling of the potential economic and social stressors that parents may experience in the new culture (Tyyska, 2007).

At MFS we assist parents through our education arm. We offer bespoke courses on parenting for Migrant Community Organisation and Religious Organisations. All our training is conducted by Migrants for Migrants in multi languages.