An unsettling majority of Black children born into middle-class families will drop down into a poorer income bracket as adults
Last year (2015), the Uganda Community in Leeds received visitors from the Uganda Community in Manchester (UCOMM), among them was a very humble beautiful lady called Mrs.Jemba who gave us good tips on ‘Girl Child’ upbringing. She’s actually taking a leading role in grooming kids for the UCOMM…..something we are yet to achieve in Leeds as we are short of female volunteers for this role. Nonetheless, I would like to add my own thoughts to what she(Mrs.Jemba) taught us, but not as a replacement for the other suggestions, but rather as an adjunct.
Here is a summary (in no particular order):
1. One of the biggest challenges today is fathers not stepping up to the role of fatherhood. Parents (especially fathers) need to get involved in their children’s lives. If we don’t know their best friends names, favourite sporting clubs, teacher’s names, etc., then we aren’t paying enough attention to our children
2. Know your children’s circle of friends. Know their names, their parent’s names, their hang out locations, etc. Know who is influencing your children and how they are doing so. Take a proactive approach from a young age by controlling their circle of influences.
Mrs.Jemba at her office in Manchester.
3. Kids doing things we think are annoying to us at a young age is them trying to connect with us. If we ignore them or shut them down, then we are shutting down the important connections between parent and child. As painful as it may seem to listen to incoherent stories from our children with no foreseeable conclusions, we must listen attentively because they are relaying not just the events in their life but there thinking relating to it.
4. If we don’t fulfil our role as fathers, then we are inviting others to step in and fill this void. This can be an older sibling, peers or worse. But we shouldn’t be surprised our kids don’t respect us if we haven’t given them what they need from us as parents.
5. It is not fair of us to force our wives to do our job as fathers. They have enough challenges of their own as wives, mothers, sisters and daughters. But if it happens out of our own negligence, then don’t be surprised when she starts behaving towards you as a husband, and not a wife. Don’t complain she then oversteps her mark as a wife, you have forced this on her as a matter of survival.
6. We need to engage our children in an age appropriate manner. Be careful what you expose your children to as they may not necessarily have the ability to make sense of such exposure.
7. If we do choose to expose our children to geo-political questions, then don’t base it on hate or frustrations alone. Offer them a positive means of channelling these frustrations so it does not result in destructive and counter-productive behaviour.
8. Don’t crush the hopes of our children. Despite the ugliness of the world at the moment, connect our kids to something positive and hopeful. Don’t crush their dreams or aspirations and paint the world as one of never ending gloom. Without hope, despair will overcome us, and this will impact every aspect of our lives.
9. The internet has exposed our children to much more than the parents were ever exposed to as children. Parents need to appreciate the world has changed, and approaches to parenting need to change too. The nature and scale of the challenges facing our children today are far more profound than anything before it. We must understand the world our children live in today.
10. Smart phones … get rid of them for your children if you can. Whilst you can’t isolate your kid from the world (their peers will still have phones or there will be other avenues of exposure), it would be better to teach our kids resilience and confidence instead. Standard parent justifications for giving our kids web based devices are not difficult to challenge. Teaching our kids independence by finding their own way home, for example, is better for our children than the parent taking comfort in knowing they can track their kids movements via a smartphone.
11. Exposure to the internet. Understand the nature of the beast. Be proactive in your response. Devices in common rooms only, internet filters where possible, for example, but ultimately, teach your kids resilience and effective decision making tools. You cannot shun them from the world, best to prepare them to engage it confidently.
12. Teach your kids confidence and a desire to positively impact the world. It shouldn’t just be about self-preservation. Build resilience in your children PLUS a desire to positively influence their surroundings.
13. Question the measure of success we apply to our children. Is it academic, financial, social, etc.? What of Islam and their Islamic activism. Easy to offer lip service to Islam, but how would we react if our intelligent children chose a ‘lesser’ career path because they wished to use their time for community work?
14. Reward generously and punish fairly. Don’t overdo it on either front. Kids need structure and discipline, but they also need mercy and reward. Kids should be comfortable with their parents in both scenarios. For example, if our kids do something wrong, they should be concerned about the parent’s response. At the same time, if our children so something well, they should be equally eager to share this experience with their parents too.
15. Set a culture of collective rewards to encourage sibling support, not rivalry. If a child does something well, give that child the individual recognition they deserve, but find a way every child can share in that reward. That way our children encourage each other to do good knowing full well they will all get rewarded for such behaviour.
16. Community needs to get its priorities right. We are facing unprecedented challenges and the support services required to combat these scourges either do not exist or are wholly inadequate. We need to direct money, effort and expertise to desperately needed services such as drug rehabilitation clinics, woman’s refuges, youth centres, nursing homes etc. We can’t wait for others to fix our problems, we need to take personal responsibility. It is costing lives and destroying homes.
Raising kids abroad is a different ball game for most Africans as it involves a lot of challenges, but we’ve got to do it at the best of our abilities. May Allah (swt) bless and protect all our children, and strengthen all those working tirelessly to preserve them.