Coming to China is a chance to expose our children to a culture and language that may be quite different from the land of their birth. Time and again I have seen in my practice that children who have the most success in this new culture are the ones who are able to participate.
One obvious way is to learn the language. Many may be turned off from learning the language due to time commitment and perceptions of difficulty. However, learning Chinese can be a way for children to feel less “foreign” and to feel included the community. Encourage children to learn the language by showing them that you are making an attempt as well.
Some children may shy away from making local friends for linguistic reasons, feeling too “different”, or just plain shyness. Help your children by making friends with other parents and families, and arranging playdates. This first step can model for your child how to challenge their fears and take a risk that may have a great payoff.
Support your children when they feel certain parts of their new culture are difficult to accept. Validate your child’s feelings and difficulties if they are having a tough time, and help them identify ways that they can express their own cultural values while respecting the ones of the culture they are living in. Help your child consider how actions of others may be perceived as a cultural difference instead of simply as “rude.”
It is not uncommon for some expatriate children to feel bullied or picked on, especially ones who may look different from the local population. If you feel that your child may be a target of bullying, alert the school (if applicable) and assist your child in finding activities and areas in which they can feel confident. Please also consider seeking the help of a qualified professional.
Help your child share aspects of your own native culture with the local population. Cultural exchange is a two-way street, and cultural understanding and acceptance can be built by children who take some initiative. One idea is to consider inviting members of the local community to your next holiday celebration of your home culture.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to share knowledge with the Beijing community. This will be my last column for beijingkids as my family moves on to our next chapter in Shanghai. Happy New Year, and my very best wishes to all our readers as you continue to raise happy, healthy kids here in Beijing.
This article originally appeared on page 21 of the beijingkids February 2016 issue. Click here to read the issue for free on Issuu.com. To find out how you can get your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Philippe Put (Flickr)