For many mothers all around the world, the United States is viewed as a beacon of hope. As a result, thousands immigrate to America each year. But what nobody tells them is that acclimating can be a real challenge – especially when kids are involved.
Ways to Help Your Children Adjust to America
Life in America is like life in any other developed country – at least in the sense that there will always be ups and downs.
However, there could be opportunities for success if you’re willing to fight through challenges.
As you adjust to life in America, here are some ways you can look out for the best interests of your children:
Master the English Language
You and your kids probably have a basic understanding of English – certainly enough to read this article or watch TV – but can you speak fluently? Mastery of the English language is one of the best ways to integrate and open up opportunities for growth – (both for you and your kids).
“I know that it is not easy to learn another language, but there are so many tools that can help, including free classes in many libraries and schools,” says Charbel Barker, who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico as an adult. “The best way to look at it is that we should try to adapt to the new culture, and not wait for the new culture to adapt to us.”
Your kids don’t need to be the most popular kids in the neighborhood, but it does help if they have one or two friends their own age. This helps them feel understood and accepted. Be cognizant of this and try to encourage social interaction.
Prepare Kids for School
In order for your kids to be successful and create opportunities for themselves, it’s important that you prepare them for school. While it’s not necessary to have a college education, it’s certainly recommended. College degrees have become the norm in American society and you want your kids to be focused on the goal of college from a young age.
While there are lots of scholarship opportunities and financial assistance programs available to immigrant students and their families, it’s important that your kids meet certain standards. Studying for and passing the TOEFL exam is one of the first steps. You can give your children a leg up by really preparing them for this test.
Keep Routines and Rituals
Change is a good thing for kids, but too much change can throw them off course and lead to long-term emotional and psychological issues.
“As much as possible, try to continue the same kind of routine and rituals that you had before moving,” family counselor Ariadne Brill advises. “This may require some adapting due to cultural norms, yet most children feel very safe after a big move when they see certain routines and rituals can be continued.”
Figure Out Customs and Norms
As humans, we’re all pretty insecure. But if you have children in the pre-teen or teen years, then you know just how frail their little egos are. They’ll do almost anything to fit in and feel “cool” or accepted.
While you don’t want to encourage insecurities, you can help your kids be more comfortable by helping them understand customs and norms. This will prevent embarrassing moments and allow them to feel more acclimated.
Don’t Ignore the Friction
When you’re so focused on making this transition work, it’s easy to adopt the mentality that positive thoughts are good, negative thoughts are bad, and anything that doesn’t fall into the former category should be ignored. However, this is a dangerous place to be – especially when you have emotional, impressionable kids involved.
There is a ton of friction involved when moving to a new country – especially one as fast-paced and different as the U.S. Ignoring this friction tells your kids that you don’t understand them or care about their needs, wants, desires, fears, and anxieties. Acknowledging this friction helps them know you see them eye-to-eye and are experiencing some of the same things.