By: Justyna Baraniecki
There are so many aspects of culture shock when a family moves to a new country, even more so, when a family skips continents. When I was young, one of the first things I noticed was the vast differences in the raising of children. Being that I’m about to embark on marriage soon myself, the idea of having children of my own is no longer a fuzzy thought: its becoming much more real! I suppose the first thing I noticed as a difference between North American and European culture was the conservatism.
The “ideal family” as it is portrayed in much of North American media and that I see in my own environment is strangely conservative and quite quick to ‘shelter’. Friends of mine and people I know that have recently become parents here, I’ve noticed, immediately changed the way they dress, the things they talk about (especially around the children), their interests and the people the used to be are a distant memory. The sentence I seem to hear most often is When you have kids, you’ll understand.
Of course there’s a certain amount of change to be expected when a couple starts a family. I guess I just remember growing up in Europe a little bit differently. Our toys had their spots (and it wasn’t in the living room for every adult to see), temper tantrums were not an option, and if Ma and Pa wanted to go and have a drink with friends, the whole family would go. “Vices” weren’t hidden, mini skirts were worn, sex, religion and politics were still discussed. The idea of getting a baby-sitter so the parents go off and have ‘adult’ time didn’t happen in the Europe I grew up in.
I find myself constantly in situations where I have to watch what I say in fear of a child hearing it. I mean, I don’t exactly cuss like a salt at sea, but if you can’t talk about films on the Oscar short list, is there a limit to how much one should shelter their children? I don’t know what method of child rearing is best, and, I don’t think its about one method being better than another. It’s just another thing to get used to. Does being completely open with your children lead them to becoming balanced adults, or are there topics of conversation kids ought not be privy to? Coming from Poland to Canada doesn’t seem like that big of a jump to the naked eye, but the differences are vast, and nearly 20 years after immigration, I find myself still feeling the culture shock. What are you thoughts?
I had a great conversation with a friend of mine, a woman who also immigrated from Eastern Europe, and her experience seemed parallel to mine, in the sense that children were included in everything. If an activity was too much for a child to bear witness to, it simply wasn’t done, period. Being in the middle, I find myself wondering, what are healthy boundries and how do you establish them? This months post opens up more questions than answers, but it’d be nice to hear what you have to say! Do you find a difference between children raised in Europe versus North America?
In addition to being a gifted stylist, part-time model and contributing style writer at the Ottawa Citizen, her passion for fashion has turned her into a vintage clothing collector. As if all this wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Justyna recently launched the stunning online vintage boutique chicshop.ca and keeps busy with her own blog.