Raising Immigrant Kids in America

Raising immigrant kids in America brings obvious challenges: from food, language, the role of parents, schooling, career choices and instilling cultural practices. Parenting is hard. But raising children in a different culture you didn’t grow up in is  even more challenging. One that needs understanding, courage, and a lifetime of learning.

When my kids arrived here in the US four years ago, my son was twelve and my daughter was seven. Between the two, we were more worried about my son having a harder time adjusting just because he’s older and more Filipino so to speak. As a result,  we were a little bit more protective of him in the beginning. I used to create horrible images in my mind, about my kids being bullied in school because of their skin color or accent. Fortunately, it never happened and I pray to God it never will. In fact, I was surprised to see that majority of the kids in school were welcoming, polite and friendly. So different from what I saw on TV growing up, where they’ve always been portrayed as bullies, wild, self entitled individuals.

Picking up new customs from our adopted home has been a highlight of moving to America. We’ve learned to put our trash away after eating in fast food restaurants, something we never do in the Philippines. We stand in line and patiently wait for our turn like everyone else. We’ve learned to shower without a pail and dipper (tabo). We learned to greet people and exchange casual pleasantries to strangers. And most importantly, my dear children have finally stopped staring at people! Oh yes! We’ve had our own share of culture shocking moments (more about our culture shocking experiences on the previous post, “The Bald Eagle vs. The Carabao”. There’s certainly a lot of polishing to do but I’m quite proud to say that we’re getting there.

The real business about integrating into one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world has not gone so smoothly for me. As someone who was born and raised in the Philippines, speaking with an American accent and understanding it have been  quite a challenge and it blew my mind how quickly my kids picked it up. Two months into American school and they were prolonging vowel sounds and started glossing over t’s. Many times, I would ask them to repeat what they’re saying and to talk “properly”. I on the other hand am still struggling to pronounce hippopotamus and still can’t tell a penny from a dime.

As a parent, I’m constantly striving to instill in my children a sense of independence and responsibility. But with doting family and extra help around, this may seem a little tricky to achieve back home in the Philippines. Here in the US, it’s just us. If you want a glass of water, you go get it yourself. If you want clean clothes to wear, you do your laundry. There’s no helper at your disposal. So as soon as they arrived, I assigned them age appropriate chores and a daily schedule to keep them on track. And every now and then they would take up additional chores and get paid as an incentive. Most days I morph into a nagging old witch but given that we have a teenager, a pre-teen and a toddler in the house, I have slowly come to accept that it’s inevitable. With the help of my US raised husband, we just try to make them understand that in order for our family to function well, each one has to do their part.

Now we have a three year old, US born Filipino toddler in the mix. Although he won’t certainly face the same challenges the older kids did. One thing’s for sure though, like his two older siblings, he will learn to embrace and love both the Filipino and American cultures. As well as appreciate the beauty of being bicultural. 

KC & a truckload of hugs and kisses 💋

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27 thoughts on “Raising Immigrant Kids in America

  1. Thanks for sharing this. It’s great to instill responsibility and independence in our children. It definitely helps them to grow up into responsible adults! I’m fortunate enough to have two children that are great adults and parents.

    • I wish there is a magic recipe that will make all these so much easier! 🙂 You are a great mom, your kids are blessed to have you. 🙂

  2. Can you make my children understand that everyone has to do their part for us to function? I totally feel like a nagging witch as well and I’m not facing the same struggles you are. So sorry, it’s normal I suppose.

  3. my family was immigrants from Colombia and while i was born here in the states it was hard because my mom didn’t allow a lot of the same things my friend’s parents did. like something as basic as cereal wasn’t something we had at home and we often felt left out when we were younger.

    • It’s truly a struggle living in a foreign country. Especially when parents are still holding tight on the culture they grew up in. But sometimes, we just have to learn to embrace the beauty of being bicultural! 🙂

  4. OMG, I love your post and can relate with you so much! I’m from Brazil and have been here in the U.S. since 2004. I came with my guitar on my back, without knowing a word in English. It has been a wild ride, but so worthwhile! I’m glad your kids have adjusted well to the American culture. If I ever have kids, I want them to also learn to love the Brazilian culture… it’s one of my worries! Lol. Thanks for your post. I had a blast reading it. ♡

    • Oh wow! I can’t imagine how hard it was for you in the beginning. I admire your resilience! I’m sure you will be able to do it. You’ll be great! ☺️

  5. Thank you for sharing this with us, I can relate to this a 100% as I also had to school in a foreign country for 12 years, glad your kids arnt being bullied, although its unfortunate most countries aren’t as receptive as the U.S. haha. The part you said you are still struggling to pronounce hippocampus.

    • My kids getting bullied in school was honestly my greatest fear. I’m just so grateful they have adjusted well here in America. ☺️

    • So true! I personally didn’t find the need to adapt to the new culture at first but living here in America opened my eyes about the good and the bad of my own culture. We are so lucky to be able to experience the best of both worlds.

  6. You are doing an awesome job. Raising bicultural kids is not easy but adding another culture to their background will definitely make their characters fuller in the future.

  7. I love that they are learning both cultures. I used to be more doting, but have learned they need to be independent and now I am doting, but not so much. 😉

    • Yes and we are thankful that we are able to experience the best of both worlds! 🙂 Not so doting I guess is good. hehe

  8. I can imagine it would be rough to adopt older kids and then raise them in a whole other community. But people need love wherever they are at. And it’s great you were able to put in the time and effort to help them meet the challenges.

  9. My mom was an immigrant to America when she was 10 and she definitely had her own challenges. The 3 year old wont know but I am sure your other kids are grateful for the decisions you made to make them Americans.

    • When we first moved here they couldn’t wait to go back and visit home again. But now that they have adapted to the life in the US, gained friends and became more comfortable, America became home to them. We will always try to remind them of this blessing. 🙂

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