“Everyone does this! I don’t want you to talk to Jeff’s mother! No body else has a curfew that early! Sarah’s mother let’s her wear shirts like this! Your going to embarrass me if you talk ask Steve’s mom if we are going to be supervised when we are swimming.”
Parenting in an expat community means that we are parenting in a more diverse, less homogeneous environment than if we were in our home countries. There are strict parenting approaches more in line with the Tiger Mom approach to the opposite extreme where parents provide little guidance for their children and everything in between. This variety of parenting approaches, combined with the frequency that families leave and new ones arrive often means that we don’t feel like we have a consistent parenting community.
Psychologist Ron Taffel says, “Parents need help and encouragement in authority building. Harvard Professor Alvin Poussaint highlights the importance of “chit-chat”—the value of people having conversations in the places of daily life, the side of the sports field, school events, churches. When parents talk and become more at ease, more self-confident, gain in personal authority and realize they are not alone.
When groups of parents talk together they learn different strategies for dealing with parenting issues. Today’s parents are on the frontier. The first generation to parent children with smart phones, iPads, and computers. We can’t fall back on either doing what our parents did or reacting and doing the opposite. In our parents generation while we liked to think we were smarter than our parents, the truth was that there was no problem they needed to solve by “calling a 12 year old”—the current cry when technology is not working.
Some parents in Singapore have found the benefit of deliberately building a parent community—or parent peer groups. They talk and build support talking on the side of the soccer pitch, meeting together for the purpose of talking about issues facing their children at school and even employing technology by developing parent communities for specific events through What’sApp groups.
These parents are talking to each other, sharing and learning and finding a lot more courage to parent from their convictions. They talk about things like:
When are you giving your child a smart phone?
What is your child’s curfew?
Are you letting your child go clubbing?
How much are you budgeting for you child for senior trip?
How can we keep our children safe during the senior trip?
What are families doing for prom? Prom after party?
We are on a fast learning curve, banding together we pool our experiences, experiments, challenges and successes to meet the challenge of parenting children today. When we get shaky and lose our nerve the support of other parent remind us something we can easily lose site of: Never forget: You are absolutely, unequivocally, irrefutably smarter than your child! Adapted from Karen Deerwester.