Explore

Helping Children Cope With Culture Shock

By Leah Freeman-Haskin

Share

We often hear that children are extremely adaptable to change. However, it’s not uncommon for children to feel culture shock in the form of disorientation, withdrawal, and “acting out” when traveling or moving to a new country. This is especially true if the new culture and environment are vastly different from the “home” in which they’ve grown accustomed. I spoke with a licensed clinical social worker, Kassia Ringell, for tips on supporting children through difficult adjustments and feelings of culture shock.

What does culture shock look like in children?

Depending on the child’s age and communication level, adjustment issues can present themselves very differently from one child to another. “A transition to an entirely new environment may present some real challenges and heighten anxiety,” says Ringell. “This might look like more frequent temper tantrums, increased irritability or seemingly ‘over-reactions’ to benign situations.” It’s important to recognize these behaviors for what they are and not label them as simply bad behavior.

As a parent, what can you do?

“Parents can and should explain, in as much detail as possible, what to expect before the new change occurs, to help ease children into the transition,” says Ringell. Here are a few more tips:

1. Reading Stories

Find stories where characters are going through similar situations to help children imagine what this change might look like for them.

2. Play Experiences


Games, puzzles, and art “can help the child work through potential feelings of anxiety or frustration,” suggests Ringell.

3. Build Excitement

Learning about the new culture together as a “family fun practice activity” through real-life scenarios “can reduce anxiety and instead build excitement and confidence about navigating the new experience,” Ringell notes. For example, a trip to the grocery store can spark the question, “what might be the same or different about going to the grocery store in a new city or country?”

4. Affirmation of Emotions

“Most importantly,” Ringell continues. “Affirmation and acceptance of the child’s fears and anxieties are comforting, and offer opportunities for parents to validate the child’s feelings and then praise their efforts toward working through big feelings.”

How can you help children identify their emotions?

For younger children, it may be difficult for them to communicate or even understand what they are feeling. As a parent, it is important to help children identify their emotions. “If a child acts out or is hostile, parents must work together to identify what the exact cause of frustration is, help the child identify the feeling associated with it, and then problem solve alternative and healthy ways to cope,” explains Ringell. Toddlers may require more comfort strategies like a transitional object, whereas older children can engage in a conversation about their feelings. For all ages, Ringell recommends storytelling through reading and visual arts as helpful tools for improved self-regulation.

Share
Travel Noire

Leah Freeman-Haskin

Want more?

Get exclusive, unpublished tips from Travel Noire's CEO to help you get off the beaten path, into the hearts of locals and onto a better, more cultured life.

The Black Expat: ‘I Am In Control Of My Life And The Experiences I Create’

The Black Expat: ‘I Am In Control Of My Life And The Experiences I Create’

El Paso, Texas native Chidimma Ikeakor, aka Anne, made the move abroad less than a year ago. She has now made South Korea her temporary home where she works as an English teacher through the EPIK program. While she has enjoyed her experience thus far, she doesn’t see this as a permanent move. We spoke […]

DeAnna Taylor

Make Travel A Priority In 2020 With These Goal Setting Tips

Make Travel A Priority In 2020 With These Goal Setting Tips

The start of the new year is a great time to prioritize your goals and ambitions for the coming year. If travel is at the top of that list, here are a few tips on how to set goals and stick to the process of seeing them through. RELATED: Start Saving Now For Summer 2020 […]

Leah Freeman-Haskin

Sunrise To Sunset: A Day in The Life Of A Black Expat In Costa Rica

Sunrise To Sunset: A Day in The Life Of A Black Expat In Costa Rica

Nosara, Costa Rica is a small town on the Pacific side of the country. We moved here to escape the hustle and overwhelming grind in the States that had taken a toll on our relationships, health, and well-being.  We needed an escape. A chance to reset and work our way out of a routine that […]

Leah Freeman-Haskin