Many Africans today are seeking better futures for their children by opting to give them an education in the United States. Moreover, many prefer giving birth and raising their children on US soil in a bid to secure brighter and better futures for their children and the immediate family as a whole. However, for immigrant African parents, educating their children in the United States can prove to be a daunting task that requires a substantial investment of valuable time, money and physical energy. For parents working long hours and sometimes 2-3 jobs a day, having to raise young children in the United States is another challenging job all on its own.
Even from a black perspective, raising African American children or children of color in the US requires a different cultural and social parenting approach. Denene Millner’s book, My Brown Baby: On the Joys and Challenges of Raising African American Children, outlines thought provoking and raw truths about black parenting in the US. (Denene, 2017) candidly reveals how parents from all races may want their children to have successful lives but they simply do not raise them the same. From how to style your hair to how you relate and fit in your dominant ethnicity, children of color and white children are brought up in different socio-economic and culturally diverse backgrounds. This article draws insights from the book and other writers and covers how African immigrants can navigate education, disciplinary methods, parental duties and pop-culture portrayals while raising their colored children in the US.
Firstly, one of the biggest huddles to address for African immigrant parents and their children is culture. Cultural conflicts for African families living in the US are sometimes weighty and may carry legal consequences. Most of these are done unwittingly by parents and prove costly when the courts take action. There are incidences where African parents in the US take up sticks or brooms to physically discipline their children and much to their surprise; it is considered a felony for abuse of the child by US law. When this happens, African Immigrant families often run the risk of losing their children to child protection services or losing their immigrant status.
Although parenting is very personal, immigrant African parents need to be wary of their actions and how to discipline their kids. They need to understand child protection laws and this information can be gathered from experienced immigrant parents through forums organized here on Afrikagora. Attending events hosted by African American families and African immigrant families is another great way to get information on disciplining your children in the US. Nonetheless, according to (Steinmetz, 2016) there are a number of training programmes organized by the state and African immigrant associations that help new immigrant families to bridge the cultural gaps between parents and their children that usually contradict their norms and beliefs.
In addition, financial circumstances and parent’s marital status greatly affect the wellbeing of children across the United States. A PEW research study in 2014 found out living arrangements among parents also affected their children’s economic standing, wellbeing and school performance. For instance, 31% of children living with single parents live below the poverty line unlike 21% of children with parents living together who live above the poverty line. Across ethnic groups, only 31% of black children live with both parents while 57% of them live in a single-parent household thus greatly contributing to the prevalence of poverty within the black/immigrant African communities (PEW Research centre, 2015).
When it comes to education, getting involved in the early years of your child’s school activities is vital to create a lasting bond that will transcend to the adult years of your son or daughter. Most African parents, especially fathers are somewhat regarded as distant when it comes to the early childhood development of their children. However, raising a child in the US requires constant and vigilant involvement in the studies of your child. Being too involved is not a bad thing sine a child needs constant reassuring that their parents are about their welfare. Being always involved in your child’s school activities builds trust and openness within the family which is a learning avenue for both parents and children.
For instance, African American families are encouraged to inquire about their child’s progress in school at least every two months, attend regular Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meetings, and help out in their child’s class projects. Parents are also encouraged to read aloud to their children before they formally begin attending school and assess their image and emotional management. This is because, away from the home environment, children may be exposed to bullying and racial prejudice and they need to be prepared on how to appropriately respond to these kinds of aggression. Discrimination is based on both gender and race and African Americans are more prone to face this discrimination in the hands of law enforcement, school and even at work. Being vigilant and having a cool temperament in a world with increasing race relations will help young colored children and adults to navigate and understand societies that greet them with hostility, fear and contempt all over the world.
Finally, educating your child in the United States can be costly especially when they get to college. A New York Times article as early as 1875 found out that the cost of higher education almost doubled for every generation (The New York Times, 1875). Today, the United States spends more on college than almost any other country. This includes individual family contributions, government loans and scholarships. Americans spend $30,000 per student annually, twice as much as the average developed country. This is because in global rankings, America spends the highest in student-welfare services like housing, meals, health care and transport. American students are also more likely to live away from home thus justifying the high prices.
However, scholarships for sports activities are numerous and excelling students in sports can get handsome cutbacks in their school fees. For immigrant families, this is a welcome way of cutting back on hefty college fees if the child is gifted in extracurricular activities like football, chess, or a budding physicist.
Although cultures may clash as you try to raise your child in African ideals while embracing the values of the Western world, the primary goal of parenting is to instill beliefs, ideas and competencies that are ideal for them to appropriately function in their immediate society. It is important to understand and appreciate your historical and psychological contexts that influence family practices by adopting and promoting culturally relevant positive parenting approaches. Therefore, it is imperative you learn from your children by being involved in their lives regularly. Moreover, find forums like Afrikagora where you can meet with other diaspora parents and share your experiences on raising children in the United States. You will gain more understanding and invaluable insights on parenting in the United States through reading relevant materials, engaging with other parents and being part of Afrikagora.
Denene, M. (2017). My Brown Baby: On the Joys and Challenges of Raising African American Children. amazon.
PEW Research centre. (2015, Dec 17). Parenting In America:Outlook, worries, aspirations are strongly linked to financial situation. Retrieved from PEW Research centre: Social & Demographic Trends: https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/17/parenting-in-america/
Steinmetz, J. (2016, oct 13). Immigrant Parents Face Challenges in Raising Children in America. Retrieved from Karibu News: http://thekaribunews.com/2016/10/13/immigrant-parents-face-challenges-in-raising-children-in-america/