Helping your children cope with change

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Many families decide to immigrate to Canada because parents want the best for their children. But because of this move, kids are thrown into a totally different world in which they are forced to cope with changes whether they like it or not. Common issues newcomer youth face are language difficulties, additional stress because they sense their parents’ stress, shift in educational styles, loss of identity, discrimination, bullying, and parental pressure to excel and meet expectations.

These issues are tackled in this video, entitled New Moves (produced by Frameland Productions, funded by CIC Canada). Young immigrants talk about the difficulties they faced as newcomers to a new school in a new country. They also share valuable advice for other newcomer kids on how to cope:

(This video has versions in other languages at Settlement.org )

What you can do

Parental support is crucial in this period of adjustment for children and teens. You can show this in five ways:

  1. Communicate
    Always talk to your kids and check up on them. Share with them your own stories of adjusting to the new environment and how you make an effort to cope, so that they’ll open up with their own stories. Always make these conversations free from judgment and stay upbeat. Don’t let them wallow in their worries but don’t belittle their experiences either. Sometimes, kids just want someone to listen to them and provide them assurance so that they don’t feel alone in this journey.
  2. Get involved
    You can offer to accompany your child to school (especially on their first day) and talk to their adviser or guidance counsellor. Together, you can learn more about the curriculum, school rules, activities, as well as the teachers’ expectations from their students. You can also ask about special classes that your child may need or be interested in like ESL classes, extra-curricular activities or sports programs.

    Attend regular PTA(Parent Teacher Association) meetings to be updated of your child’s progress. And if you have extra time, volunteer at school events to be a good example to your child.

  3. Observe
    Is your child withdrawn and reserved when he was usually cheerful before you moved? Drastic changes in behavior, moods, or even eating habits can be signs of depression or stress. Talk to your child and be patient with him. Sometimes this can be a plea for attention. But if you feel that it could be something more serious, seek the support of a professional. Go to Supportline.ca and choose the appropriate service that you need.
  4. Seek assistance
    There are many agencies in Manitoba that provide specialized services specifically for newcomer youth. These services range from mentorship to emotional and social support:
    • Family Dynamics operates six neighbourhood family resource centres in subsidized housing developments. In addition to school-based initiatives, youth programs include Growing Active Kids, youth drumming groups and summer day camps.
    • The Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM) runs youth programs four times a week, featuring the arts, leadership, homework drop-in and dedicated girls’ and boys’ nights.
    • The Newcomers Employment and Education Development Services Inc. (NEEDS) provides services and support for immigrant and refugee children and youth and families, including crime prevention, youth mentorship, an employment program, an introduction to Canadian education, and after school programming.
    • The Sexuality Education Resource Centre (SERC) offers ethno-specific workshops on intergenerational conflict and sexual/reproductive health.
    • Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council Inc.’s Ambassador Program forms “Welcome Groups” between established students (the Ambassadors) and newcomers in Winnipeg schools, to offer emotional and social support to newcomer youth. Through this program, the Ambassadors and the schools learn about the values in different cultures and traditions.
  5. Provide encouragement
    Encourage your children to be active in school activities and sports, but let them choose which ones they are interested in. Give them the freedom so that they won’t feel pressured. In this way, they will genuinely enjoy these activities, as well as gain confidence because of your support and trust.

    Celebrate small victories in their school life to show them how proud you are of their achievements and to inspire them to persevere in their studies. This will help them focus on worthwhile things and less on the difficult aspects of their adjustment.

Sources: 6 strategies to keep newcomer youth safe by Baisakhi Roy (Canadian Immigrant Magazine, March 15, 2012); Caring for kids new to Canada, Community resources for immigrant and refugee youth; Parent’s guide to teen depression from Help Guide.org.

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Community Resources

For training, employment and internship opportunities, go to Youth.gc.ca and Youth Employment Services.

The Directory of Youth Addictions and Services in Manitoba is an extensive reference that lists agencies in Manitoba that provide information, counselling and treatment to families and youth experiencing addiction as well as sexual and mental health problems.

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Helping your children cope with change

Select the best definition for each word as used in the article.

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