How Latinos are bonding over first-generation trauma

How Latinos are bonding over first-generation trauma


12/6/2021 6:04:00 PM

How Latinos are bonding over first-generation trauma

First generation trauma is an emerging term in the Latino community, with people talking about it on social media. Here's how it affects children of immigrant parents.

, a licensed marriage and family therapist, said when a child of immigrants begins to navigate the world outside their parents’ home — at school or at a friend’s house, for example — they start to question their parents’ cultural teachings in order to fit in, which can lead to disagreements at home.

Code-switching:Rivas explained code-switching as a person changing the way they speak, act, or interact with others in specific settings, such as the workplace. Someone who frequently juggles two very different versions of themselves to get by at work, for example, could start to feel emotionally exhausted.

Attachment trauma:This refers to trauma that can occur within family relationships, Pezo explained. “It could be feeling like their needs weren’t met appropriately, not getting emotional support, not feeling as if there was the ability to really connect and feel safe within those relationships maybe because of environmental stressors that were existing at the time,” she said.

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In Pezo’s work, clients have said their parents have responded to their emotional distress by saying“te calmas o te calmo”which translates to “calm down or I’ll calm you down.” Or a parent might respond by telling the child“Por que lloras? No llores.”

— Why are you crying? Don’t cry. Instead of acknowledging their feelings, the child is unintentionally taught to push it aside.Zamarripa said that many clinicians talk about first-generation trauma within the context of the family — family relationships and the strife within them. But: “That’s a very Western way of looking at things. In actuality, the kids go to school and the parents go to work outside of the house,” he said.

He argues that a majority of the stressors emanate from external factors. And people bring those experiences, positive or negative, home at the end of the day, and racist rhetoric or negative expectations in the workplace get added to individual stressors.

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“It’s important that our community doesn’t continue to internalize this notion of a deficit within our Latinx cultural context,” Zamarripa said. “We should not internalize a narrative or idea that all this comes from within us. A lot of this comes from all the hits that we take outside the family that we don’t realize we’re trying to negotiate when we come together.”

As an adult it’s not easy to identify the imbalance they’re feeling or ask for help.(Kassia Rico / For The Times)How do these experiences impact your life?At a young age, some children of immigrant parents had to navigate school, government agencies, or workplaces alone — because they’re the first in their family to do so — so as an adult, it’s not easy to identify the imbalance they’re feeling or ask for help.

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