Working Through the Challenges of Raising Filipino Kids in a Canadian Society

By Abel Pagaling


(Article originally posted at

“Mom and dad, I’m going out with my friends and will be home late.”

For many Filipino parents, these words can be unsettling. Not because they don’t trust their kids to do the right thing, but because the environment that their children are going into is very different than where they’re from.
For traditional parents who grew up in a strict, religious, and disciplined home in the Philippines, the Canadian social life can be “too liberal”, or “unrestricted”, making it easy for teens and young adults to explore sex, drugs, gangs, and other activities that could turn them into statistics.

CLC ADAdd cultural difference to this, the increasing sexualisation of “pop” culture from music videos to video games, and easy access to information online from both good and bad sources (such as porn). It’s understandable why parents worry.

As a father of three beautiful young kids, keeping my kids safe from harm is my top priority. I’m sure this goes for all loving parents, but this doesn’t always go well with the kids.

At some point, all kids want to “explore what’s out there”. There is this natural desire to be a part of the larger group. Even at a very young age, kids automatically gather together. Just observe a playground and see how kids start playing after a few minutes of coming into contact with each other.

But wanting to “explore what’s out there” is particularly challenging for parents when kids become teens and young adults. This is the “high risk” age category where all the bad things that could happen “might” happen. This is when parents become “protective”. If you watched the cartoon movie “The Croods”, you know what I mean.

In my attempt to prepare myself for this eventual clash between me and my kids who will hit puberty in the next several years, I met with a good friend of mine Marycris Reyes and talked about how she successfully navigated her two boys in their teen and young adult years.

TFCCLike many immigrant families from the Philippines, Marycris and her husband AJ came to Canada with their two teenage boys in 2005 in the hope of a better future. As incredible as this sounds, the “cultural transition” was not an easy journey. What typically takes Canadian families their whole life to learn and grow into is compressed to only a few months if not weeks for new immigrant families to adapt to. It’s similar to having 20 years of cultural education crammed into a few months!

Marycris and AJ experienced this difficult transition. They started from scratch in a foreign culture. Back then they did not know many people.   Every day, they worried about putting food on the table, how they would pay their bills, and how to keep their jobs while they work hard to assimilate to become more “Canadian”.

But I learned from Marycris and AJ that the hardship was worth it as long as their kids turn out well and become productive members of society. The difficult transition was an acceptable sacrifice in exchange for a bright future for their boys.

So could you blame immigrant parents like Marycris and AJ if they come across as overprotective to their kids?

Still, it’s a struggle. I know my wife and I will face this one day. It’s inevitable. Looking at my eldest son who reminds me of me (only he is smarter), I know we’re going to deal with a headstrong kid someday who will push for what he thinks is right, so we better be ready.

I asked Marycris for her insights to help prepare me and my wife to face the “high risk” age category that’s coming. She openly shared her thoughts with me. But before we go through the list, I’d like to tell you more about Marycris and AJ. They are one of the pioneers of Champion Life Center (CLC) church where they currently serve as leaders.

Aside from her church work, Marycris serves the Filipino community as part of FCT – Filipino Champions Talk committee. And yes, Marycris and AJ successfully transitioned in Canada. Their two boys are now grown men and have completed their studies. Both currently work in the medical field.

AJ and Marycris Reyes, with their sons CJ and Christian.

Here are her thoughts on how she and AJ successfully raised and “navigated” through the tough years:

  • Have a weekly family prayer and “devotion”.
  • Connect with a support group from the church.
  • Connect the kids to the church and encourage them to use their skills in the church.
  • Spend quality time with the kids and know what’s happening in their life “daily”.
  • Involve kids in family situations and decision making.   Ask them what they think they should do. It makes them more aware of life’s struggles, makes them feel valued and part of the family.
  • Say “sorry” too. Parent’s humility shows we’re not perfect. Let the kids know it’s ok to make mistakes.
  • Know your child’s love language – words of affirmation, physical touch, receive gifts, acts of service, or quality time.
  • Guide them even after they turn 18 years
  • Teach them the habit of priority and work on schedules.
  • No money as “baon” (lunch money). Bring food to lunch Show the value of money and hard work.
  • Let them use a student loan to help them be responsible for their tuition, but support them with their car and other needs.
  • Power of human connection – kids don’t listen to people they don’t like, so build a relationship.
  • Before you correct their mistakes, praise first their efforts.
  • Power of the tongue – tongue holds the power of life and death, curse, and blessings.
  • Power of words and declaration. “I Can! “ I am a Champion- your words become a reality, encourage kids, use words that win! No to “you’re a loser”.
  • But the biggest factor is Church involvement at Champion Life Center (CLC) – a church passionate about loving God and discipline people to become followers of Christ through meaningful relationships and community programs. Empower lives to build healthy Discover the Champion in you.

As we close our conversation, I sense both gratitude and joy from Marycris. Gratitude that she found purpose, comfort, and strength from her church group, and joy from knowing that she and her husband AJ have been blessed with two wonderful sons.

I think the successful outcome was the result of their sacrifice, prayer, and determination to see their kids grow properly even if sometimes they came across as overprotective. For that, I give a big salute to Marycris and AJ and to all the members of CLC church group who helped them along the way.


For more of Marycris’ insights, she can be reached at:

Champion Life Center (CLC)
3763 52 Street SE Calgary AB T2B 3R3
Cellphone # 403-614-0092

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