By Latifa Soliman
We help them take their first steps, then they lead the way. Our children are leaders by nature, it is us who either nurture their leadership or lose it. Being a Muslim immigrant mom and educator, I considered it my duty to raise my three girls to be proud Muslim leaders in their community. This doesn’t mean that they should follow my footsteps; instead, they have their own footsteps to create. Let me share with you how I was able to raise three confident leaders, happy individuals, and supportive members of the community.
Our Move to Canada
Parenting three strong minded daughters as an immigrant was a great challenge to me; consequently, I needed to build my knowledge and skills to be able to cope with their mindset. For example, they were the ones who initiated the idea of moving to Canada to study. They lead the way by searching about advantages and disadvantages, planning for the move, and baring with the consequences. As a mother I had to absorb their enthusiasm and respect their plan. As a family, it took us a lot of thinking to take the decision to direct all our lifelong investments towards our daughters’ education. It was never an easy decision, as I had to change my plans and rejoin school to be able to support my daughters’ plans and move to Canada as a graduate student. Beginning a new career at a new country took its toll on the whole family, but looking at the results, I could not be more grateful.
Let them Decide their Future
Being a leader as a Muslim woman is not new, Khadija the first wife of prophet Mohamed peace be upon him, was a leader in her community and a business woman. Raising your children to be leaders, plan for their future, and work towards achieving their plan, no matter what the consequences might be, could be scary. However, it could be a great practice to teach them how to take their decisions with confidence in the future. My eldest daughter was raised around family in our home country, yet she had dreams to study abroad and expand her horizon. She approached us with her plan, with confidence and pride, hence we decided to scaffold her towards her dream. She was the first member of our families who took such bold decision of studying abroad on her own, thus we were faced with so much criticism. As a confident leader, she worked so hard towards her dream, and we worked hard to support her achieve it. Today, as we all followed her footsteps, I look at my daughter and see a strong Muslim immigrant girl, who was able to achieve her goal to graduate with a Bachelor in Art from University of Toronto, and currently working in a well-known NGO supporting immigrants and refugees.
Happiness Comes from Resilience
Messenger of All?h (sall All?hu ?alayhi wa sallam) said, “Do not disdain a good deed, (no matter how small it may seem) even if it is your meeting with your (Muslim) brother with a cheerful face.” Riyad-us-Saliheen – Hadith No: 695. During our journey, we need to remember that happiness is a choice. This is a lesson my second daughter taught us! She always has a smile on her face that reflects her resilience. During the hardest times, she always believes Allah knows best. She was bullied at school from an early age, yet she chose not to give up on herself. She stood up and faced the bullies then managed to turn them into friends because of her kindness. Now, she chose to study child psychology, to help children in war zones gain their smiles back. As parents, we know that her choice will coast her to live in dangerous places, yet we owe it to her to give her the opportunity to seek the path she chose for her life. Parenting an optimistic child is not an easy task, especially supporting them to maintain their positive perspective of life after facing barriers and challenges. Nevertheless, if we keep warning them about possible hurdles they might face, this will turn them into pessimists, which is not what we want. Somewhere in the middle would always be good, to make them aware that life needs us be believe in ourselves, and the more we try to be accepting the more we could reason and face hardships.
Help Them Become Givers
The Prophet (sall All?hu ?alayhi wa sallam) said: “None of you truly believes (in All?h and in His religion) until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” Hadith 13, 40 Hadith an-Nawawi. From a very early age, my youngest daughter had the opportunity to learn from her community, and then started to give back. As an athlete her upbringing was based on giving as much as taking; therefore, she is able to balance her responsibilities towards her family and friends with clarity and care. She began her career as a gymnast since she was three, and she had to spend long hours training to become a professional gymnast. Consequently, when she turned 10 she started giving back to her team by training younger gymnasts. Currently, after we moved to Toronto, she chose to continue the path of giving back and she works after school twice a week training youth. If you wish to have your children understand a concept then give them the chance to live it and apply it. Don’t be scared to have your children be a part of a foreign community as long as principles are there to set a base for their relationships.
To conclude, taking the step to move to a new country needs a lot of courage and planning. Moreover, living as an immigrant parent is not that different from living in our home countries, we still worry about our children’s values and deeds. Give your children the chance to lead their future plans, and if you can support them with all your efforts. Don’t hinder your children’s abilities to spread their wings and become the leaders they aim to be and let them positively contribute to their communities.
About the Author
Latifa Soliman likes to identify herself as a Muslim immigrant, a curious learner, and a passionate educator. Her background is diverse, making her an advocate for equity, diversity, and inclusion wherever she goes. Furthermore, she is a dedicated mother of three wonderful ladies and she teaches English Communication at Durham College. She earned her master’s degree in education from the University of Toronto where she was fortunate to learn how to integrate into the Canadian community.