Parenting Issues for Expat Moms
· The Notion of Safety:
Most cultures have their own pre-conceived notions about what is safe and what is not safe. Many a time, unsafe situations are the result of poverty or a result of cultural differences in safety perception and methods of child-rearing. For instance, mothers in America will find playing by the street a potentially dangerous situation for their kids but in countries like Sweden, kids playing by the streets (though not on the streets!) are perfectly alright. In Asian countries, kids playing on deserted streets or those with low traffic are a common sight.
· Trusting Children’s Instincts: Different cultures place varying levels of trust in children’s instincts; one such instance is that of countries like Sweden where toddlers who are trying to climb are allowed to do so. The premise being that by the time kids are the age of one they have figured out just how far they can go without falling, in short what they are capable of. On the other hand Swedes advise putting children until the age of four and a half years in to rear facing car seats to create a safe environment.
· Independence and Self-sufficiency of Kids:
The level of self-sufficiency in children across different cultures is another factor that you as an expat mom are bound to encounter. Little girls in certain Asian countries like India cook, wash, clean and take care of younger siblings with surprising efficiency. This by the age of eight or ten is something that is taken for granted in their culture and could prove to be a big surprise for Westerners.
Another example is that of Japan where both parents are often very busy and it is not uncommon for four year olds to get on to a train and go to class all by themselves. Often, the concept of a baby sitter is restricted to that of an electronic one…the television.
If you thought Russians, who teach their babies to swim very early, were averse to the cold, think again. These very same people are wary of exposing their kids to drafts or cold drinks and ice creams. This is because they fear their children will catch a cold.
Many cultures, such as Asian and Russian, will also speak out against kids who are “underdressed”. Modest dressing or dress codes are demanded in many countries and that is something you will have to consider if you come from a more open culture.
· Conflict Resolution:
This is a huge consideration in parenting because it will determine how your kids will deal with situations all their lives. If kids are consoled instead of corrected they will never realize their mistakes. Some cultures do not encourage spanking kids or yelling at them, while in others this practice can be seen as more acceptable.
Having said that, what skills should you adopt when parenting abroad? Keep an open mind. Accept the good and incorporate it in your “own” ways to suit your family situation.