Migration Counselling: Why 1st and 2nd generation migrants need counselling support?
Updated: Feb 9
As a first-generation migrant, I had to nurture my Indian Australian kids in finding a balance between their ancestry which sits on their faces and their lived and experienced environment. My own experience as a 28-year-old was thrilling, full of hope but slowly regressed to confusion, isolation, and always feeling different. There was this whole cycle that I learned as part of cross-cultural counseling training later: of being done with the old, re-inventing yourself, feeling still quite different, going back to your base, and finding answers to sustain this 'traveling in two boats'. It became exhausting and took up life energies that would have been better used toward self-development and living a fulfilled life. I was determined though, that my kids will live life with complete self-acceptance. Through my study of counseling through human life-span and cross-cultural counseling, I endeavor to nurture and build this self-acceptance in all my clients.
I realized that we all have a strong need for social inclusion but also a foundation of self-awareness. There exists evidence-based research proving that I can thrive. Having lived close to a quarter of my life, I can draw from examples of my own resilience. Digging facts from the previous generation's transitional migration journey came in handy and helped me cope further. From then on, I have helped many migrant children and parents navigate this road with more ease and support. The secret in doing this well, lies in finding the balance between growth, advocating your right to be diverse, and staying hopeful to embrace.
I found children are quite resilient, born-optimist, and self-confident if their life experience doesn't continue to drill in them this theme of 'difference' and they can be maneuvered in direction of self-reliance and self-worth if they find support in other adults. That's how I found my calling in helping children and parents as they resist feeling different. I understand the specialized needs of migrant parents and migrant child that battles with their multicultural identity or face an identity crisis as they grow through a vulnerable stage of finding themselves. I help them learn the ropes of dealing with peer-pressure, bullies, unintentional micro-aggression that they face (like the name pronounced differently, their lunches looking different and smelling different, thinking and dreaming in a different language, and speaking a different one with friends). Skilled support is available to them that can make multiculturism their super-power.
As parents, we lookout for the best interest of our child, and most of the time the only answer we have is skill up-gradation that can launch them to success. But, what if they can't 'enjoy the success', 'be open to meaningful relationships', or look towards unhealthy outlets like substance abuse because the nagging voice of self-doubt returns.
Separation, the divorce of parents, losing a pet, moving away from friendships that they have invested in, change of schools-all these common life movements can cause an epidemic of issues like self-doubt, anxiety, depression, emotional eating, bulimia, and a myriad of other psychological and somatic issues especially immense body consciousness which goes with the territory of the lifecycle of a child. For a long time, a child can continue to re-manufacture these experiences all the way through teens and adulthood unless a healthy intervention can reframe this experience.
Therapeutic tools and nurturing through counseling can help any child but especially a migrant child and parent narrow the gap between hiding from self to embrace their unique identity, and realize their potential in a safe environment.
At the end of the day, we are all migrants and we have within our reach access to evidence-based psychological tools that will validate our specialized needs and revitalize our emotional resilience, so we can find our unshakable confidence and optimism to feel and be our best.
Counsellor at Wings counselling & Therapy