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Three Generations + Three Perspectives = All Counts

Ami Jobanputra, Saheli Volunteer

Three Generations + Three Perspectives = All Counts

On Saturday March 27th Saheli held its second daylong workshop for the South Asian community at the Council on Aging in Burlington.  This workshop focused on intergeneration communication within the South Asian community and was attended by over 60 people. 

The attendees were three different groups:  youths (ages 12-30), young parents (under 40) and parents and grandparents (over 41).  Within each age group, facilitated conversations were held to discuss issues and concerns that arise within South Asian immigrant parents and their US born children, and how to better communicate within the various generations. 

Each generation took the time to share their own experiences and learn from each other. 

Dr Kiran Lulla, psychiatrist in practice, who facilitated the youth group, observed that the youth were excited to hear each others experiences in communicating with their parents. They learned the differences that exist in parenting, by parents who are raised in India. The youth left with solutions to close the generation gap by increasing communications between parent and child and “compromising through cooperation”.

Meena Sonea Hewett, Director of Saheli, facilitated the young parents workshop. Through an interactive exercise, the group identified fears that affect effective communications between them and their children. The young parents identified a sense of rootlessness, loss of social networks, and concern for their children’s loss of the Indian heritage that increases tensions in parenting. Overcoming these fears, building trust, and taking steps towards building healthy relationships between parents and their children were identified as important skills to harness as immigrants acculturate to the US culture.

Gouri Banerjee Ph.D. who facilitated the parents and grandparents group observed “many senior parents often encountered feelings of loneliness and isolation as their busy children and grand children lived their lives in the fast-paced American culture which was unfamiliar to the seniors. Parents, who could no longer return to live in their homeland due to health, housing and aging concerns, felt they were trapped in a life style not of their own choosing. The most satisfied and contented seniors were those who had living and lifestyle choices about their golden years."Each generation took After a wonderful Indian lunch the group came together to hear from the invited guest speakers.  Detective Anne Marie Browne from the Burlington Police Department spoke about the role of the police department in the community. The police must be seen as allies of the South Asian community and their primary goal is to ensure the safety of all.  Molly Leary and Leisel Smith both school counselors from Burlington High School also spoke about their experiences within the high school and interactions with South Asian students as they go through adolescence.  They highlighted resilient factors that are important for youth to develop healthy relationships such as good mental and physical health, positive relationships, knowing individual limits, and developing one’s self esteem. A healthy outlook about oneself is key to keeping youth from risky behavior.

The afternoon ended with Dr. Kiran Lulla M.D. speaking on her experiences as a pediatric and adolescent psychiatrist within the community. According to Dr. Lulla “The key to an improvement is to promote more effective communication between generations. Reducing conflict around communication helps to reduce stress related illnesses in all generations of family members. Problems can be objectively handled with the help of extended society, sometimes, beyond parents and in worst case scenarios, with professional help from people in the field, like me.”

The day was enjoyable for all as each generation was able to learn from each other and share stories on their personal cultural and generational struggles.  Saheli has been serving the community since 1996 in supporting friendship for South Asian Women and Families.  To learn more please email sahelihelp@gmail.com or visit www.saheliboston.org.


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