When we move our family to Japan there is a wealth of information about how to help the adults in the family adjust, but not as much when it comes to children. Whether your kids are little ones, preteens, or teens, there are some universal signs that they are suffering from culture shock. There are also some universal ways to help them overcome culture shock and to thrive.
Lack of shared interests with their peer group
Shared interests are how we bond with a peer group and find our tribe, regardless of age. If your teen, pre-teen, adolescent, or little one does not have any new interests, this can be a sign that they are not making friends and are incredibly lonely.
I caution parents that knowing the names of classmates and attending some out-of-school meet ups does not always indicate that your child is bonding with their peers. Having new interests is a clearer sign because it reflects that your child is investing both time and energy into connecting with a new social group.
You can help foster and support the development of new interests by asking your children what the other children like and taking a crash course in it via YouTube and Google. Help your child familiarize themselves with new television series, music, fashion, and video games. A little bit of familiarity can go a long way toward helping your child connect. Knowing what their new friends are interested in will provide a feeling of being part of the group.
Persistent state of “I don’t know”
If your child is spending most of their time confused, this is a clear signal that they are struggling with culture shock. It is vital to provide an understandable routine as quickly as possible. The best way to do this is to talk with your children about daily routines and school schedules.
Talking about schedules and finding out what is working and what is not provides time for your children to vent and lets you know what they are struggling with. Even if they are at the age of wanting privacy, it is nice to know that your parents are checked in.
Knowing what’s going on will allow you to catch issues and problems before they have the opportunity to take hold and impact school performance and self image. It is crucial that your children know they are special and have value. This message can get lost as children struggle to find their new rhythm after an international move.
An increase in health complaints can be a sign of a genuine health issue or an indication of an emotional issue. How to tell the difference is to first seek the advice of a medical health professional. If the doctors cannot find a physical reason for the symptoms, accepting that its source may be emotional is important for a quick resolution of the issue.
It is important that children learn that no matter what is going on, it’s ok to need help. This is especially important in families that have a difference in how children cope. Children are different, and it is important that they know these differences bring both gifts and challenges.
Embracing our children for who they are and accepting that they may need a little extra help is an amazing gift. As the family comes together to help each member overcome their unique issues, a positive bond is formed that will stay with the family forever. Seeking help and knowing that asking for help is ok is a powerful gift to give a child and one that will serve them well throughout their lifetime.
Kisstopher Musick is an American-trained and qualified mental health therapist with over 20 years experience helping people. Kisstopher opened her Nagoya therapy practice, Adjustment Guidance, in 2009 where she works with clients Tuesday through Saturday by appointment.
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All communications with Kisstopher are confidential, and your first appointment is free.