DEAR SOMEONE ELSE’S MOM: My husband and I moved here to Chicago from Czechia almost 15 years ago. We became citizens as soon as we were able, and are doing our best to raise our children to be good citizens, but also to know about where their parents come from. We speak both English and Czech at home, and have taught our children to read and write in both languages.
Our oldest son has just become a teenager, and now he seems to be ashamed of both us, his parents, and his background. When a neighbor asked him a few days ago to say something in Czech, he said he cannot, because he does not speak the language. When his friends come over to our house, he seems to do all he can to keep them away from his father and me. It all hurts our feelings and makes us sad to think our son is so ashamed of us and his heritage.
We know teenage boys act differently from younger boys, but do you think this is all normal, or is our being immigrants making him act worse? --- FEELING ASHAMED OF FEELING ASHAMED
DEAR FEELING ASHAMED OF FEELING ASHAMED: I’m guessing much of what you’re experiencing is a normal aspect of life with a typical teen. In your case, it just happens that there’s something specific your son can latch onto to be critical of, beyond just the usual perceived generational differences. He’s probably trying his hardest to not stand out from the other kids he knows, and if his household is culturally different from those of his friends, he may feel that it brands him as an oddball.
My advice to you is to not take it personally, hard as that may be to do when the slights are happening. Hopefully with time and maturity, he’ll come to value his having had the chance to grow up experiencing two different cultures, which can be a wonderful springboard to understanding and accepting a wider range of people, traditions, and ways of thinking.