“Paneer!!!!”. Which Indian kid does not like Paneer, but few would agree to take it for their school lunch? This was the discussion at a panel discussion held at India Center, a collaborative event with ISW and Saheli. In an attempt to open a dialogue between parents and teenagers, a group of professionals, parents and seven Indian kids got together, and we were able spark important dialogues about parenting and the South Asian experience in America. Having teens on the panel offered a “kid’s perspective” on parenting and growing up American which the attendees were eager to hear from.
So, going back to ‘Paneer’, a teenager offered up his take on the risk of taking paneer for lunch. In a crowded school cafeteria, Elementary kids being a little frank will ask loudly ‘What’s that smell’, so its safer to take a cheese sandwich, for one may feel that ‘What’s that smell’ may translate to you being the ‘smell’. Being different is not a life aspiration in school. Additional insights shared were around the pressure to succeed academically and Indian kids are constantly compared to other Indian kids by anxious parents in a world where they themselves are comparing their lives to their peers in school. Most agreed that they don’t share their discriminations/tensions at school with their parents in order to protect them. As a group they felt that when given a chance to know them, the non-Indian kids were more open. This patience also taught them an important life lesson too.
These discussions were a result of an event held on June 16 by Saheli and India Society of Worcester called “Challenges in Parenting”. The event consisted of two workshops. The first workshop, Raising Children in a Digital Age, was led by Dr. Uma Chandrika Millner. Uma Chandrika Millner, Ph.D. is a South Asian psychologist, a professor at Lesley University, and a full-time mom. She has many years of experience counseling South Asian individuals and families and is very interested in learning about how South Asian families maintain relationships at a time when social media presence is very important.
The second workshop, Bringing Up Resilient Teenagers in a Dual Culture, was co-presented by Shubh Agrawal and Geethika Bathini. Shubh has supported students in Boston Public Schools, through tutoring, mentoring, and school counseling. She currently works as a counselor at Worcester Academy and her counseling interests lie in thinking about the intersectionality of students' and staffs' identities and how it impacts how we experience our environments. She holds a license in K-12 School Counseling from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education of Massachusetts and a master’s degree in School Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Geethika is a recent high school graduate from Worcester Academy where she was involved in diversity work, such as starting an affinity group for South Asian Students on campus.
We are happy to share that the event was very successful and look forward to more collaborations between Saheli & India Society of Worcester.