BY ADAM MC LEAN
Parenting in any generation and for any mother or father can be a daunting task and one that comes with serious risk, reward, happiness or unfortunately at times, sorrow.
It can be particularly daunting for an immigrant parent to build and maintain a healthy relationship with their child.
Coming from a country with a different culture and different values for raising children, parents can find themselves still learning to adapt to the realities of rearing their son or daughter in a suburban, Canadian culture of Richmond Hill. Sometimes their children adapt sooner, and embrace their new culture or even reject their parents' culture.
For those parents struggling or looking for answers to bridge this gap, there is a series of workshops offered at the Richmond Hill Christian Community Church to help remedy and strengthen the parent-child relationship.
The workshops are entitled Stronger Families, Stronger Communities and each workshop is lead by Dr. Ernest Cheng.
Dr. Cheng is a parent who has raised two boys, both now in their 20s; and the doctor hopes to share many of his own experiences and lessons as an immigrant parent raising two Canadian-born children to help others like himself.
"I am just someone who is willing to reflect, be open and honest about parenting. I'm not here to lecture, but in a humble way explain my experiences, my successes and failures as a parent. It is half confession, half instruction.
"I often ask myself, 'what gives me the right to talk about this and lead these workshops'," Dr. Cheng said laughing.
Born in Hong Kong, immigrating to Canada at 18 and then earning his doctorate at the University of Toronto's Institute for Studies in Education, Dr. Cheng, now 59, is also the author of two Chinese-language parenting books; 'A tree planter's dream' and 'A bridge builder's dream',
And it is through his humble experience as a dad, that he plans to lead discussion and instill certain methods that can help an immigrant parent relate to and nurture the development of their Canadian-born child.
"Parenting is such an important life step and most of us don't take a parenting course in college or through our formal education, so usually when one becomes a parent they have had little practice.
"This series of workshops offers a chance for discussion and some education. I can't provide all the answers, but it is a way for parents to come together and relate," Dr. Cheng said.
He talks at great length about the many bridges between parents and their children which need to be built in order to navigate a happy and healthy relationship through what he sees are a host of different relationship foundations.
He will be leading four such workshops over February and March with the first called 'The Giant Chasm' scheduled for Friday, Feb. 20.
The Giant Chasm looks at the natural divide that exists between parents and children in every household and Dr. Cheng illustrates this divide between generations can sometimes be deeper when the parents are immigrants.
"A cultural transition can cause this chasm to range even further," Dr. Cheng said.
"I experienced a very Asian upbringing and though even now I consider myself as Canadian as the next person; there is a heritage and environment within me that is different from the one my two sons have been brought up in. For many immigrant parents these values can clash," he added.
The doctor illustrates four contributers to this divide as: age gap, generation gap, cultural gap (which can not only affect immigrant families, but also any urban family where parents were brought up in a rural setting), and learning curve perspective.
After hearing Dr. Cheng describe the complexities of the learning curve perspective, it is easy to see that such a phenomenon probably exists in any Richmond Hill household.
"With most people our learning curve rises sharply in the our first 20 years, plateaus and then slowly tapers off.
"As a parent, when we look at our kids' learning curves, it is inevitable that as our curve declines and theirs is on the rise, the two will meet and then continue in opposite directions.
For example, if an individual becomes a parent at age 25, the curve crossover point between parent and child will occur when the parent is 40 and their child is 15. Each will learn new skills and absorb information at the same rate.
Beyond that point, phrases like, 'you are starting to loose it, Dad' or 'you are having a senior moment' may start to be uttered by your child.
"It can be customary for kids to lose a little respect for their parents at this point. They figure mom and dad are not 'with it' because they can't work the computer or figure out the DVD player," Dr. Cheng said with a laugh.
"There isn't much a parent can do at this point, but to just love your child unconditionally and see them as a gift. They, in return, will look at you differently and more than anything, being loved is what they need most," he added.
Dr. Cheng will host a second workshop on Feb. 27 entitled 'You, the leader' encouraging parents to come out and discuss what it means to lead the family in a stimulating and psychologically safe home environment.
Each workshop will be offered at the Richmond Hill Christian Community Church in both English and Chinese, and Dr. Cheng hopes parents of any cultural background will take part in the group discussions.
Admitting the majority of the church's congregation where he also teaches Sunday school is Chinese, his message about the workshop's inclusiveness is loud and clear.
"The majority of us are of Chinese birth or heritage, but we are Canadians and our children are Canadians. Richmond Hill is our home and it is where our roots have been put down. We hope that through these workshops we can reach out and make people from Richmond Hill's many ethnic groups feel at home," he added.
Richmond Hill Christian Community Church is located at 9670 Bayview Ave., just south of Weldrick Rd. Admission to the workshops is free.
For more information phone 905-883-3399.