Essential facts about parenting in Canada

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All parents want the best for their children. In fact, the driving force for many immigrant families to leave their countries and settle in a different land is the welfare of their kids. Providing a safe environment where their kids can grow up to be healthy, happy, and well-adjusted is a top priority. Immigrants expect to freely establish this when they arrive here.

Parental rights and responsibilities

In Canada, just like in most countries, parents are responsible for their children’s love and care, protection and safety, food, clothing and shelter, education and health. In addition to these, Canadians put a premium on ensuring that children get ample time to play and be exposed to cultural and artistic pursuits and activities. All of these are entrenched in the culture as well as protected by law as children’s rights. This emphasizes that all these elements are essential to enable children to develop into happy, successful adults.

In addition to these, parents have the right to raise their children with their values and beliefs. You have the right to raise and discipline your children without the involvement of the Child and Family Services unless the child is unsafe. Parents also have the right to decide for the child about religion, school, discipline, medical treatment, and where the child lives (What are my rights and responsibilities as a parent? General Child and Family Services Authority).

All of these are welcome concepts for newcomers to Canada. However, the manner of execution of these ideas sometimes differs because of cultural beliefs, philosophies and practices. More often than not, it is in the areas of disciplining and parenting styles that immigrant parents struggle. Especially for families that came from a collective culture, shifting into a parenting style that fits Canada’s individualistic culture can be a challenge.

What do you need to know about parenting in Canada? Here are some basic points:

Parenting Laws

You have probably heard that in Manitoba, children under the age of 12 years cannot be left unsupervised at home. You may also know that most forms of corporal punishment (physical punishment involving deliberate intention to inflict pain) to discipline a child are not encouraged and generally frowned upon. Manitoba adheres to a child-centered public policy and upholds the United Nations’ Rights of the Child. In matters of Family Law, the focus is always to promote the child’s best interests. These priorities are also reflected in the Healthy Child Manitoba (HCM) Strategy. HCM is composed of support programs for children, youth and families. It has an online resource you can use to know more about the programs that you can participate in and the supports you could avail.

You can also access the Manitoba Parent Zone site, which is an offshoot of HCM. It is an interactive guide to anything related to parenting. It has an “Ask an Expert” feature, child and adolescent development information, and links to other resources and programs for parents to assist you in your child-rearing needs.

The role of the Child & Family Services (CFS)

Some parents may have a negative impression of this agency, but in reality, the CFS is every parent’s partner in ensuring child safety and security. The CFS provides a range of social services and programs that keep children safe and protected. It extends assistance to families affected by family violence and family disruption. The agency can even help you with your concerns about finding child care, emergency food and housing, and even counselling.

Parenting styles

Manitoba recognizes that families choose to adopt different styles of parenting. It is understandable that families prefer to do things in different ways and follow methods that are rooted in their respective value systems and cultures. As mentioned above, parents have the right to raise and discipline their children based on their values and beliefs. However, there are limits to how families can carry these out. These methods should not harm the child and must conform to Canadian law.

There are various programs in Manitoba that promote acceptable schools of thought on parenting. You may have heard about the Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) on the site, or Positive Discipline which is promoted by MOSAIC Newcomer Family Resource Network. There are other programs that could help you, but it essentially boils down to what you feel will work best for your child. The ideal is to find a good balance between allowable practices in your own culture and prescribed parenting styles in Canada to raise well-adjusted children.

Getting support

Many newcomer parents may become overwhelmed with all that they need to learn and absorb. In Manitoba, newcomer parents are given support and encouragement through free parenting programs that are easily accessible. These range from pre-natal, mom and baby programs to “Better Fathering” programs that explore family dynamics, ways of improving communication, and developing parenting skills with a cross-cultural focus. Check out the community resources section below for more options.

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Community Resources

Nobody’s Perfect is an education and support program for parents of children from birth to age five. Learn more about this initiative by watching this short video:

Help for new parents from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority lists down sites to access childbirth classes to prepare for the birth of your child.

Sexuality Education Resource Centre MB (SERC) has various programs and services for newcomers, among these is a course on “improving family relationships and communication”.

Know more about Family Law in Manitoba at the Manitoba Justice page.  You can download the Family Law in Manitoba – 2014 Public Information booklet, also from this page if you want general information on child custody, marriage, separation and divorce, unmarried relationships, and other aspects that affect parenting and child-rearing.

Here is a comprehensive list of Winnipeg-based Parenting Programs compiled by the Adolescent Parent Interagency Network.  Please note that the list is as of 2013 and some programs may have ended.  Kindly check by using the website links on the list.

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Essential facts about parenting in Canada

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