In last week's article, we asked the question "Is your child experiencing language shock?" If you answered yes to that question, this article is for you.
If you sense that your child might be struggling to learn the English language at school and is having a hard time adjusting to life in the U.S. and you aren't sure what to do, we have some ideas.
We have compiled points from current studies in the field as well as advice from Dr. Georgia McMahon, former professor of Child Psychology at Colby Sawyer College. In today's article, learn about six things you can do to help your child succeed in the U.S.
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6 ways to help your child succeed in the U.S.
1. Team up with the teacher: "You, as the parent, are the bridge between your child and the school", said Dr. McMahon. Look for signs of distress in your child at home and ask her about her days at school. Try to sense what is behind the words. Your child's teacher might not be aware of how different your home culture is from U.S. culture. "How can your child's teacher motivate him to learn if the teacher doesn't have any knowledge about his home culture?" Dr. McMahon added. Suggest to your child's teacher that culture might be part of what is making the adjustment difficult and encourage the teacher to learn a bit more.
2. Remember that age and personality matter: "The younger the child, the more adaptable but a sociable and flexible personality would have a positive influence no matter the age of the child", said Dr. McMahon. Has your child ever lived abroad in the past? Many kids who have already adapted to a second culture are likely to understand the feelings that they are experiencing more than those who haven't.
3. Be vocal and talk to the school administrators: Your child has grown up in a very different educational system with different norms, values and communication styles. She is now in a whole new system, where the curriculum and teaching methods might not feel natural to her. Schools need to start taking cultural backgrounds of the kids into account when they design textbooks. Speak with the school leaders to make sure this becomes a priority.
4. Help other parents who have recently arrived: If you have been here for a little while and you have learned a lot, why not pass that knowledge down to other parents who have recently relocated to the U.S.? Team up to approach the administration and the teachers in order to be heard more clearly and to let them know that your child is coming from a different culture and has different needs when it comes to learning.
5. Educate yourself: You observe your child every day and you know that he is struggling with the adjustment. Did you know that there is an entire field of research on this topic? Browse around the web for studies that have been written on "Third Culture Kids" or "Expat Kids". Check out International Family Transitions for some helpful information.
6. Work with an expert: As mentioned above, there are professional cross-cultural trainers who specialize in helping children transition to life in a new culture. Contrary to popular belief, the skills that are needed to cross cultures successfully are not intuitive. Consider working with a specialist to help your child navigate this exciting but stressful time. Here at English and Culture, we do not specialize in working with kids but feel free to contact us and we will give you some ideas about how to get in touch with the right person.
Sources: Georgia G. McMahon, Ph.D Early Childhood Development
Miller, P.C and Endo, H. (2004). Understanding and meeting the needs of ESL learners Phi Delta Kappan
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