Helping Your Child Deal with Culture Shock
Almost all students experience some degree of cultural shock. When your child goes abroad, they will experience new cultures, people, food, music, and depending on the location they may experience a new language as well. The newness along with the lack of things pr people that are familiar to them may cause your child to have some anxiety. Expect your child experience some degree of this anxiety, which is called culture shock.
Culture shock can be put into four stages. Becoming familiar with the stages of cultural shock better enable you to help your child cope with it.
The first stage of culture shock if often called the honeymoon stage. The honeymoon stage usually occurs in the first few days of arriving in the host country.
Symptoms of the honeymoon stage
Your child may show:
· Excitement and euphoria
· Anticipation of everything that they is about to experience
· Fascination with everything and everyone they encounter
· Eagerness to learn the language spoken in the host country
During the honeymoon stage, your child will be eager to take on the challenges of living abroad.
After the glamour of the honeymoon stage is gone, your child’s initial excitement may wane. They may start feeling irritated, signaling the onset of the frustration stage. Frustration can occur for various reasons.
Symptoms of the frustration stage
You may notice that:
· Some of your child’s initial excitement dissipates
· Feelings of anxiety, anger and homesickness creep in
· Your child might reject his/her new environment and begin to have a lack of interest in his/her new surroundings
· Your child becomes frustrated with trying to speak a foreign language
How to help your child handle the frustration stage
· Listen to what your child has to say. You may be tempted to get involved and solve your child’s problems, but it is more likely that your child is simply seeking someone who will listen and empathize.
· Remember that anxiety and frustration happen to millions of people who study, work, or travel abroad.
· Consider that your child is in a new environment and getting accustomed takes time. How your child handles this frustration determines how they grow and benefit from their experience abroad.
· Encourage your child to stay positive.
Once your child has gotten through the Frustration Stage they begin to have a more balanced view of their experience abroad. This is the Understanding Stage.
Characteristics of the understanding stage
· Your child becomes more familiar with the culture, people, food and language of their host country
· Your child has made friends
· Your child feels less homesick
· Your child becomes more comfortable with speaking and listening to the language spoken in the host country
· Your child feels more relaxed in their new environment
· Your child better handles the situations they previously found frustrating
During the acclimation stage your child will begin to feel like they really belongs in their new environment.
Characteristics of the acclimation stage
· Your child is able to compare the good and bad of the host country with the ups and downs of their home country
· Your child feels less like a foreigner and more like the host country is their second home
· Your child laughs about things that frustrated them at the earlier stages of culture shock
Once your child reaches the acclimation stage, you will both have the satisfaction of knowing that your child can live successfully in two cultures. This is a huge milestone. It may be helpful to talk with your child before, during and after each stage to help them understand what they are experiencing. Remember you will play an important role in how your child handles any culture shock, be motivating and encourage them to talk with their resident directors.