Life as a 2nd generation immigrant, although amazing in many ways, comes with its own challenges and struggles. I think we can all collectively relate to countless times in our lives where we’ve delt with not feeling ‘blank- an’ enough or being shamed for not being able to speak our language but then then being shamed again for even trying. And it doesn’t help that most of the time we feel like frauds, claiming the country of our parents while never feeling fully emerged into the culture. However, as children of 1st generation immigrants these count as the least of our worries, with greater problems weighing us down.

I believe as 2nd generation kids we can relate to the academic pressure our parents place us under. Commonly in immigrant households, education is #1, because succeeding in education equals a good job which equals wealth and status. Growing up we’ve been constantly reminded that we’re the retirement plan, so you have to be successful no matter what it takes; and as a result whenever we slack in our education or when we don’t reach our full potential we gain an overwhelming sense of guilt, because truly our parents worked tirelessly to get to where they are today, so their efforts cannot be in vain.

However, conveying these emotions to our parents and having these important conversations with them can be difficult or sometimes feel impossible. Communicating with immigrant parents can be challenging, because vulnerability & psychological safety can be difficult spaces for us to emerge ourselves in due to so called ‘old-school’ parents. Nonetheless, even if we were both open to these discussions, neither one of us can fully articulate ourselves in the way we want to, we’re literally speaking two different languages.

Issues such as these may have led us in the past to wishing our parents were just like the English ones; parents who we felt truly communicated and listened to their children, parents who weren’t uncomfortable with showing affection, parents who didn’t find it weird to say ‘I love you’.

However, through constantly wishing these implausible things and completely disregarding who our parents are as people, we’ve missed the opportunity to realise that they do. They show it through food, sacrifice and putting us first. Saving and never buying anything for themselves. They might not show it through their words, but they will through their actions.

Releasing bitterness and bridging any gaps between us is about gaining empathy and perspective. To understand why our parents do the things they do, and what exactly it is that they are trying to convey. Thinking about these things will help mend our relationships and the gap between 1st and 2nd generation immigrants.