How To Help Children Adjust To A New Culture

Last Updated on April 19, 2019 by Estrella

How to help children adjust to a new culture
How to help children adjust to a new culture. Photo by Nicole De Khors from Burst.

Changing culture can be an exciting experience. For both adults and children. At times, it can also feel a bit uncomfortable. Adults can reach out to resources in the community. But what can children do to help themselves with this transition? This article offers some tips on how to help children adjust to a new culture.

Provide what is familiar as children adjust to new culture

There will probably come a time when your child wants something familiar. Something they are used to in their native culture. You can help by providing experience that soothe their five senses. Was there a special food that always make them feel good? A song? A movie in your native language? Friends that speak the same language? Aroma that lifts their spirit?

In the Greater Seattle area, there are quite a few markets that cater to food from different countries. Find out if your child’s favorite food is available. Or if it’s available on Amazon. One creative client from Japan is accustomed to roasting fish in a special portable oven sold in Japan. He asked his parents to purchase it for him and ship it here so he can cook the food that feels familiar to him. What a big smile on his face when he told me about the delicious meal he made with that roaster! Familiar food. It makes us feel good.

Helping your children make new friends in the new culture

This is an important aspect of cultural adjustment for both adults and children. How much English your child currently speaks could potentially limit her ability to make new friends. But not to worry. You can help. Here are 2 stories that may give you some ideas.

My client’s young son used to have many friends in his country. Now, he doesn’t have any. His parents know that he likes sports, so they enroll him in sports programs after school. Almost overnight, the young boy starts feeling differently. Shortly after that, he became one of the more popular players. Life is back to normal for him. In addition, his parents invited his favorite teammates and their parents over for a BBQ, so he could further develop those friendships.

Another client has a 5-year-old daughter who speaks very little English, but has an outgoing personality. The crossing guard at school knows her by name because she always says hello first. That helps her a great deal in feeling part of the community immediately. Her mother picks her up at school, and chat with other parents. She invites the parents to her home for tea, and indirectly creates a group of playmates for her daughter.

Another idea is to include one of their new friends on an outing. If you are going on a picnic or a hike, consider inviting your child’s favorite playmate and his family to come along. It’s nice for a child to have his parents around while he explores new friendships. Familiarity in newness. What a comforting way to explore!

How to deal with different cultural beliefs

At some point, your child will be exposed to cultural beliefs that are different from the ones you grew up with. Perhaps even ones you want your children to have. I am NOT referring to good manners and those kinds of values you want to instill in your children. I am referring to areas that require making choices.

A professor who taught a course on multiculturalism shared his thoughts on the topic. When a child grows up in 2 cultures, exposed to 2 sets of norms on a daily basis, it is ideal NOT to ask him to choose between your way or the other way. It could be a source of inner struggle if he is asked to choose. For he obviously wants his parents’ acceptance. But he also wants his new culture to accept him.

Just as an illustration, a friend was born here, while her parents moved here as adults. She grew up with 2 sets of norms. When she started dating, her parents wanted her to date within her native culture. However, her values and beliefs were more in alignment with those of the new culture. Her parents wanted her to choose what they felt was best for her life. For quite a few years, her relationship with her parents was tense. She is married now, with someone from the new culture. And her parents could see that this turned out to be a happy marriage.

It might be a good idea if both parents could have a conversation with each other before they approach their child on topics that could potentially invite conflict.

If you would like to share your thoughts on topics discussed in this article, please email them to

If you find this article helpful, here is one on Tips for a smooth cultural adjustment.

Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking.    To schedule a session with her, please email

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