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Navigating Identity: The Challenges of Being a Child of South Asian Immigrants

Introduction (5 Challenges of being a child of South Asian Immigrants)

Growing up in a South Asian immigrant household, I often found myself straddling two worlds. My family instilled in me the rich traditions and values of our heritage, while the Western ideals echoed through the hallways of my school and neighbourhood. This duality shaped my journey and ignited a quest for identity and acceptance that many of us share. Navigating these two worlds and reconciling traditional values with Western ideals, the journey of a South Asian immigrant child is marked by complexity and resilience. In this blog post, we explore some of the difficulties faced by individuals growing up in South Asian immigrant households and shed light on their journeys toward self-discovery and acceptance. Read below for 5 challenges of being a child of South Asian Immigrants.

Cultural Identity

One of the primary struggles for children of South Asian immigrants is navigating their cultural identity. Raised in households deeply rooted in South Asian traditions, these children and youth often find themselves grappling with the clash between their parents' values and the broader Western culture they encounter outside the home. Balancing the expectations of respect for elders and adherence to cultural customs while trying to fit into a predominantly Western society can create a sense of internal conflict and confusion. As a counsellor and a second-generation Indo-Canadian myself, I've both experienced and witnessed firsthand this conflict when trying to reconcile cultural heritage with the societal norms of my adopted country. I wholeheartedly understand the tension between honouring tradition and embracing personal freedom. This weight carries the complexities of cultural identity faced by many in similar circumstances.

Pressure to Succeed

In many South Asian households, there is immense pressure on children to excel academically and professionally. The pursuit of success is often seen as a means of fulfilling the dreams and aspirations of immigrant parents who sacrificed much to provide better opportunities for their children. This relentless pursuit of achievement can lead to high levels of stress and anxiety as children feel the weight of parental expectations bearing down on them.

Strained Generational Dynamics

The generational gap between South Asian immigrant parents and their children can contribute to strained family dynamics. Differences in cultural upbringing, language barriers, and divergent worldviews can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts within the household. Sodhi (2008) stated that second-generation Indo-Canadians are faced with making a life-changing choice: either fully assimilate with their family culture or separate completely. Children may feel torn between honouring their parents' traditions and carving out their own path in a society that promotes individualism and self-expression.

Cultural Stigma and Social Pressures

South Asian immigrant children may also grapple with cultural stigmas surrounding topics such as mental health, relationships, and career choices. Discussions about mental well-being are often taboo, and seeking therapy or counselling may be perceived as a sign of weakness or shame. Additionally, societal pressures to conform to traditional gender roles and expectations can limit individual autonomy and self-expression, particularly for young women. Breaking the silence surrounding mental health remains a significant challenge within the South Asian community. In my practice, I've encountered individuals hesitant to seek support for fear of being ostracized or labelled as less than. By sharing my experiences and normalizing discussions around mental well-being, I strive to create a safe and supportive space for clients to explore their emotions and seek the support they deserve.

Finding a Sense of Belonging

As noted by Jeyasundaram et al. (2020), the struggle to reconcile familial expectations with

personal values is a common theme among second-generation individuals. Despite the challenges they face, children of South Asian immigrants also embark on a journey of self-discovery and resilience. They learn to navigate between multiple identities, drawing strength from their cultural heritage while embracing the diversity of the world around them. Through community involvement, cultural celebrations, forging connections with other immigrant families, and perhaps leaning in on chosen family, they find a sense of belonging and solidarity.


As a child of South Asian immigrants and a counsellor dedicated to supporting individuals on similar journeys, I've come to appreciate the strength and resilience inherent in our community. By sharing our stories, confronting societal norms, and embracing our cultural heritage, we can rewrite the narrative of what it means to be a South Asian immigrant in the Western world. Together, we can create a future where authenticity, acceptance, and belonging thrive. South Asian immigrant children can then find the strength to rewrite their narratives and embrace authentic love and belonging.

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Jeyasundaram, J., Cao, L. Y. D., & Trentham, B. (2020). Experiences of intergenerational trauma in second-generation refugees: Healing through occupation. Canadian Journal of

Occupational Therapy, 87(5), 412–422.

Sodhi, P. (2008). Bicultural identity formation of second-generation Indo-Canadians. Canadian

Ethnic Studies, 40(2), 187–199.


6 days ago

Having a mixed Western/Asian heritage can add to the complexity of life to children of immigrants. When you have two different cultures represented by your parents, navigating between the two often poses challenges. Often our children were too Asian for their white friends to completely understand, and too white for their Asian cousins and family to fully accept as being "one of them." I would encourage you to look into some of those problems/opportunities those kids face.


Thank you for speaking to children of immigrant experiences Renu! This really lands.


Mar 04

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