Parents from all cultures and communities share a love of their children and want the best for them. There are many ways to raise children. Some of the ways children are raised in Australia may be new to you. Everyone in the family is getting used to life in a new culture. Working things out together can help keep families strong.
Parenting in a new culture
When you are a parent in a new culture you might find that:
- life for your children is very different to when you were young
- some things expected of parents are not what you are used to
- you have less extended family support than before.
If you just want someone to talk to, or have worries or problems there are many people and services that can help. It can be good to know you are not alone.
Parents play an important role in helping children adapt to a new country. They teach family values and can help children learn, achieve, and stay connected to their culture.
Everyone in the family is getting used to life in a new culture. Working things out together can help keep families strong.
What the law says about parenting
Australian law allows parents to raise children by their own values and beliefs as long as children are safe and cared for.
Parents need to make sure children:
- are safe from harm
- have a place to live, food and clothes
- go to school
- have medical care
- have financial support.
Parents are responsible for children until they are 18 years old. At 18 years of age, children are legally considered to be adults. Many continue living with their families.
Families in Australia
There are many types of families in Australia.
There are families with:
- a mother, father and their children
- one parent raising children
- separated or divorced parents sharing parenting
- adults and children from previous marriages living as one family
- same sex parents - 2 women or 2 men and their children
- grandparents or other adults raising children.
Some families are small. Others have many children or lots of relatives living together.
Whatever kind of family you have, it is the most important thing in children's lives.
Ways of parenting
There are many ways to raise children. Parents in Australia are encouraged to:
- be kind and patient
- spend time with children, talking, playing, having fun
- guide children and help them learn
- understand how children feel
- have clear, reasonable family rules
- get help if there is any concern.
Dads are also encouraged to:
- be involved in caring for children from birth
- respect their children's mum and all women in the family
- protect children from family violence.
Parenting is easier when adults in the family work together to raise children.
Parents are important too. Try to take a break when you can, do things you enjoy, and look after your health.
Connecting with children
Having a good relationship with your children can make parenting easier. Some ways to build your relationship are to:
- talk and listen to your children
- eat meals together as a family
- share household chores
- celebrate good times
- solve problems together
- agree on family rules together, such as being kind and caring, no hitting, shouting or name calling; saying 'sorry', sharing and taking turns; the amount of time spent watching TV or using phones or other screens.
When children feel listened to, relationships are stronger.
Ideas for children's learning
There are many ways parents can help children learn. You could:
- share books with them from birth - in English or another language, or tell stories from your culture
- encourage them to play with lots of different things and be active outside
- teach children to do things for themselves
- show delight when they learn something new.
Children benefit from going to child care, playgroups and preschools from a young age. Children with disabilities are welcome at these services and schools. All children have the right to an education.
What about behaviour?
Parents are encouraged to be kind and patient as children learn the behaviour they expect.
It can help to:
- explain what you want and why it is important
- give children time to practise the behaviour
- try to understand what could be causing any 'misbehaviour'
- stay calm, even if you feel angry
- talk with children and come up with solutions together.
Smacking or punishing children does not help them learn. They might obey but miss the chance to practise solving problems. Harsh physical punishment of children is against the law. There are services that can help if you have ongoing concerns.
Children learn from what parents do. Always behave the way you would like your children to behave.
Can children be taken away from parents?
Some parents worry that children might be taken away from them.
- This is very rare.
- It only happens if children are in serious danger of violence, abuse or neglect.
- Services work with families to help them solve problems and keep children safe. It's best to get help early before things get worse.
Family violence is a problem in all communities and cultures. It is never OK. It harms everyone in the family.
- The stress harms children even if they don't see or hear the violence. Babies in the womb can be harmed too.
- Children can't learn well or achieve the good things parents want for them.
- Violence in the family makes it harder for adults to care for children.
If you use violence or have trouble with anger, there are services that can help.
Family violence is against the law in Australia.
Rights and responsibilities
Children can sometimes think they have more 'rights' in Australia. Parents can help them understand that any 'rights' come with responsibilities, including to:
- show respect for family members and others
- obey the law
- keep themselves and others safe.
If children talk about their 'rights' in Australia, you can check the facts with a legal advice line or other service. You can ask for an interpreter.
It's OK to ask for help if you need it. There are services that can help parents learn more about raising children or deal with any family concerns. Doctors, schools and services at the end of this Guide are good places to start.
Family violence is against the law in Australia.