Growing up in an immigrant household, money was used solely as a tool for survival & functionality. Any purchases that were “wants” we were not able to always afford.
My family’s story
My parents immigrated to Canada in the 1990’s and lived with other family members. My mom was not empowered to work as she had to look after us as children. My grandparents couldn’t help us as they always wanted to travel to India every 6 months.
This dependency on other family members bred toxicity within our family. The gender expectations that my mom could not work impacted our family’s financial well being.
Being exposed to financial crises
I was overly exposed to adult financial matters at a young age, as many first/second generation children are. The financial weight of responsibilities is a heavy burden to carry, especially for children and young adults. Here are other ways that intergenerational trauma impacts our ability to thrive financially.
Trauma of being part of a marginalized group & systemic challenges
Immigrant communities face racial & systemic challenges preventing them from building generational wealth. My parent’s could only work minimum wage jobs as they did not have the education nor language skills to retain a salaried position. For many children of immigrant families, this is the norm. We watch our parents work long hours for minimal pay which can be hard to witness. This breeds the narrative that money is hard to make and even harder to keep.
This also teaches us that workaholism and striving for excellence in order to have a different outcome financially is the only option. We overwork ourselves, under charge for our work and are on this constant chase to prove ourselves worthy.
Collectivist culture trauma
I hear from my client’s all the time that their parents were taken advantage of by other family members. They were often made to feel ashamed because they were dependent upon other people to support them.
Toxic Financial Sabotage
We come from a culture where it’s the many over the one. That we always need to look out for others. While noble and in some respects this is positive, it can lead to toxicity and financial sabotage.
Watching our parents lose money or be cast away from the family is traumatizing. This often instils in us the narrative that money is toxic. Or that we always need to give our money to others in order to maintain & not lose relationships.
In immigrant families, we often need to help our parents pay bills at an early age. Education is disrupted by doing childcare, cooking and cleaning while parents struggle to earn. This overexposure is a money disorder called financial enmeshment – and this can impact how we behave with money later on.
What is financial enmeshment?
Financial enmeshment is a money disorder from being overly exposed to adult financial matters.
Whether we remain frugal and have anxiety about parting with our money because we grew up in an environment where money was scarce. Or overspend & ignore our finances because money is a painful topic – our experiences growing up make a huge impact. For help with intergenerational trauma and the impacts that may have, view our therapist database here.