Moving abroad can be challenging; and is viewed as a hardship by many. This is especially the case for teenagers who are going through physical and emotional evolution.
When people move abroad, many try to preserve their identity. However, as time goes by, they start adapting new habits without noticing.
Many Kurds, when moving to the United States, choose to live in an area which is encompassed by a large Kurdish community. Still, one issue that Kurdish teenagers have to struggle through is introducing and explaining their backgrounds to Americans, since a large number of Americans do not recognize a country called Kurdistan and are not familiar with the Kurdish culture.
As a result, many Kurds create their own small societies and many teenagers choose to, or are encouraged by their parents to get involved in the Kurdish “community”. Those communities also help newcomers integrate into society. However, they may result in a conflict for teenagers who are developing their own personalities, when choosing between those culture-preserving and often conservative communities and the larger community, especially since they are developing their personalities. Here, parents can have an influential role. Parents must aid solve this difficulty and illustrate the importance and the positive aspect of their original culture.
If a family is living in an area which doesn’t possess a large Kurdish community, they are obligated to connect more with individuals who are of a background close to that of the Kurdish. This can include anyone practicing any of the Middle-Eastern cultures. Therefore, as time goes by, Kurds become rather more “Middle-Eastern”.
We cannot assertively state statistics about Kurds living in the United States, how many still consider themselves Kurds and practice Kurdayaty and how many do not anymore.
I know a friend whose grandparents moved to the United States from an early age from Russia. Yet, she and her parents still consider themselves Russians and are heavily involved in their “Russian” and “religious -Orthodox-” communities. I am not sure if Kurds can be considered this strongly connected to their Kurdish culture and identity. But to make a hypothesis, a large number of Kurdish immigrants still maintain their Kurdish identity.
The Kurdish community prepares many celebrations and activities in which teenagers can be involved. However, among Kurds in the United State, it can be said that youth empowerment, and simultaneously, teenagers’ participation rates have declined in the past few years when compared to preceding years.
I once met with a group of Kurdish youths when attending one of the organization’s meetings. I was eager to share experiences with each other. And above all, speak in Kurdish!! They returned to Kurdistan six years ago before moving back to the United States a year ago. As I was talking about my desire to go back to live in Kurdistan and how optimistic I am about the bright future that awaits it and the importance of working hard to achieve it, it seemed that my opinions were not mutual… They wanted to be more American than Kurdish. What was keeping them tied to their Kurdish culture was their mother! I felt disappointed at that moment because I had thought that more young Kurds were sharing my feelings… I don’t know what was I thinking! However, that can also motivate us more as it can be interpreted as the necessity of not only fulfilling our roles in serving the Kurdish society, but also filling the vacancy that others result in.
Going back to teenagers’ struggles, the following is some tips to help teenagers moving abroad:
- Parents must engage teenagers as soon as they start contemplating the move. Also, they [children]must contribute to the preparations, including packing.
- Parents should ensure that their teen-children have numerous accessible ways to communicate with their friends.
- Parents ought to try to plan the move at a time that doesn’t highly affect the children’s education. Meaning that moving during long school breaks is significant. However, if that is not possible and if the child is in his/her last school year, then parents may want to consider leaving the children with relatives or a close friend.
Further information can be found in the following publications: