A Discussion with the Parents of Nepali Youth Living in BC

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October 1, 2020

Focus Group Discussion with parents of youths from the Nepali community in British Columbia: a summary report

 

Please see the link below for the entire Nepali translation:

https://ncsbc.org/storage/2020/10/Final-Summary-Report-Nepali-Translation.pd

The Nepali diaspora population in British Columbia, Canada has grown exponentially from about 100 to 2,500 over the past 20 years according to Satistics Canada census data. Despite such rapid growth in its population, this community thus far has remained an ‘invisible minority’; there is hardly any published material that addresses the migration patterns, cultural identity issues, or social activities of this community. As a result, there is little public awareness of the Nepali community, with their own language, culture, and history of settlement in British Columbia. Through a series of community-based workshops organized in partnership with UBC researchers through a Fostering Research Partnerships Fund small grant, this project aims to fill this gap in two distinctive ways a) by exploring how Nepali immigrant families adjust to Canadian culture and b) by documenting how this adjustment process affects the communication between immigrant parents and their Canadian-born/raised children.
To this end, after a preliminary consultation with the Nepal Cultural Society of BC (NCSBC) Board of Directors, a workshop was held in the Surrey Public Library on November 17, 2019 with approximately 40 participants. This workshop divided the participants (parents of youths aged 13-24) into two focus groups: mothers and fathers. Each group’s view on their identity, Canadian culture, acculturation, and modes of communication between them and their Canadian-born children were discussed. The discussion was audiorecorded, however the participants were ensured confidentiality, and later the discussion was transcribed.

Major Observations

Most of the participants agreed that the issues faced by the Nepali community are similar to the ones faced by other immigrant communities, particularly from South Asia. However, there are some differences in the way Nepali parents communicate with their kids and promote Nepali identity while adjusting to mainstream Canadian culture.

Settling in Canada and Adjusting to Canadian Culture:
  • Mothers and fathers had different experiences after landing and adjusting to Canadian culture.
    Mothers who came to Canada with their adolescent children had difficulty balancing between their professional and personal life in the beginning. They faced a dilemma whether to accept any job that was available to fulfil immediate financial needs or stay at home with their children.
  • Due to the prohibitively high cost of childcare centres, most mothers with young kids opted to stay at home. Moreover, the difficulty in finding jobs suitable to their education forced many mothers to either settle for survival jobs or choose to stay home looking after their kids. This was different to their experiences in Nepal where in many cases they could rely upon extended family or domestic helpers for childcare support.
  • Mothers tended to care more about displaying their cultural identity in public than fathers (such as wearing traditional clothes or speaking their own languages), irrespective of potential discrimination they may face. This is reflected in their resistance to changing names, as opposed to many other Asian communities who do so to avoid discrimination, mostly in the workplace.
  • While most women didn’t feel discriminated against as an ethnic minority, men’s experience was different. Many men felt some subtle level of discrimination in their professional career.
  • While women find the wider community to be more flexible and tolerant towards them as Nepalis, however men expressed frustration with being misidentified often as Indians, but women didn’t find that to be an issue to the same extent.

Cultural differences between parents and youths:

  • Most mothers acknowledged that their children are more inclusive towards other ethnicities or cultures and more accommodating to the issues of sexual orientation than themselves. Some even stated strongly that they should be more open to their children’s choice of partners from backgrounds outside the Nepali community, and/or of different sexual orientations.
  • There was widespread concern that once children start going to school, they forget how to speak Nepali altogether, hindering their communication with their grandparents.
  • Both parents felt the need to be more flexible (in allowing their kids to adopt mainstream Canadian culture) while maintaining some aspect of Nepali identity. However, fathers more than mothers emphasized the need to promote Nepali culture and keep their kids connected with their ethnic roots.
  • While most parents gave importance to promoting Nepali language, a few feared that teaching Nepali to their kids may put them at a disadvantage in school.
  • In some families, the conflicting emphasis of fathers and mothers aided by the influence of school have led some Nepali youths to be torn between two different cultures.
  • There exists a clear dichotomy between the kids born in Nepal and those in Canada or the United States of America. While those who came to Canada directly from Nepal as a child continue to speak Nepali, those who were born in Canada or came from the USA don’t feel as strong of a need to learn Nepali.

Communicating and Parenting in Canada:

Most of the parents agreed that they need to listen to their kids and learn to accept their choices. Parents have realized that they cannot enforce their decisions on children. The feeling of “it’s not them, it’s us who need to change!” has slowly been instilled among many parents.

  • A few parents advocated for treating their kids as minors until 18 while others until 24.
  • In general, youths have more open communication with moms than dads. Although mothers showed openness about their kids having girlfriends and boyfriends, they were reluctant to encourage them to have serious relationships while in school.
  • Both parents felt that sex education in school is mostly adequate but parents were open-minded in talking to them about some issues.
  • Unlike fathers, mothers emphasized the value of being strategic while communicating with children if their opinions on certain issues varied. They tend to balance how much to push such that children will not rebel.
  • Both parents preferred engaging in dialogue to resolve the differences in opinion (instead of dictating to children as is customary in Nepali tradition). However, they raised a concern that kids may listen more to their friends and peers than to parents, particularly after they reach high school.
  • Mothers showed more preference for family time such as having dinner together, speaking Nepali, observing traditional cultural events, and sharing daily experiences.
  • Parents tried to guide their kids in their career path choices, partners, etc. but ultimately thought it was better to let their kids decide.

Wellbeing:

Both groups of participants emphasized the need for a deeper connection between individuals and community for the wellbeing of all.

  • A few participants emphasized economic wellbeing and the need for enhancing entrepreneurial skills across the community.
  • Most women expressed that the Nepali community lacks adequate mutual understanding and communication, which is important for overall wellbeing.

Many participants thought that problems like feeling of cultural isolation could affect wellbeing of the community members.

 

Conclusion

This document summarizes the views of Nepali fathers and mothers on their experiences while settling in Canada and their relationships with their adolescent children (who are exposed to an entirely different cultural environment from their home country). Although views differed on how to raise their children, there was a consensus that parents themselves need to change rather than their children. While settling in British Columbia, financial difficulty was the top concern among both fathers and mothers. Both parents had similar experiences in trying to embrace the new culture while maintaining their own home-country cultural values. As families settled, there was a gradual shift from a traditional patriarchal to a balanced family environment. Further study on this topic aims to uncover the more nuanced complexities on the interrelationship between Nepali youths and their parents and a path to how the Nepali community can evolve as a more visible group in British Columbia.

Acknowledgments

This report was prepared by the core research team led by Dr. Rina Pradhan and consisting of Dr. Ramjee Parajulee, Dr. Sara Shneiderman, and Dr. Ratna Shrestha. The team thanks the Fostering Research Partnerships Fund at UBC, the Nepal Cultural Society of BC, all participants and the volunteers in the workshop for their contributions.

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