For children, the time during and following the immigration process can be taxing. Young kids especially may struggle with keeping up academically, finding their identity or feeling a sense of home. Whether your child is showing signs of stress, or you just want to make the transition easier for them, consider taking advantage of the following resources that can help your child adjust.
Many children will need help at school from time to time, but children who have immigrated to the US from another country may experience more academic challenges than others. This is largely due to the language barrier or, sometimes, simple trouble adjusting to a new home and school. Because their needs are different, these children will often need different academic solutions—but fortunately, more and more schools are developing programs specifically for immigrant or non-English speaking students.
Many schools have ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) or ESL (English as a Second Language) programs that provide targeted language help. Bilingual tutors or those who specialize in your child’s specific needs are also an option in many areas. Be sure to get in touch with the school guidance counselor, ESOL/ESL specialist or other official who can better help you find resources specific to your school and community.
When children find themselves in completely new surroundings, they can understandably feel shy, confused or out of place. Take advantage of emotional support opportunities to help them adjust and feel more comfortable about their situation.
How can this be done? The best solutions, of course, depend on the child’s unique situation. Some children may benefit from some simple extra attention from you, other family in the country, or even teachers and other professionals—when possible, let the adults in your child’s life know to keep an eye out… and an ear open!
Children who are having an especially hard time adjusting may need additional support. For some, the process of the immigration or events in their home country can take their toll—if this is the case, don’t be afraid to reach out to professional counselors or therapists who are better equipped to help your child.
Different cultures have different attitudes toward mental health. Try to detach from any negative stigmas when dealing with your child’s mental wellbeing, but also be conscious of them. If your child is uncomfortable about receiving help, let them know that it’s a normal part of life and nothing to be ashamed of.
Finally, children will usually need a good social support system to really immerse themselves in their new home. They will also want to stay connected to their culture. You can help them balance the two by introducing your child to after school activities or groups at school, church, or throughout the community. Your nearest cultural center or even your pool of new neighbors are exceptionally great places to meet others who share your culture and language. These are especially important resources to reach out to, because they can help your child retain and celebrate their culture while still developing a sense of belonging in their new home.