I was six years old when my family moved from Athens to Brisbane. We assimilated halfway through the first school year, so there was a lot of adjusting, from making new friends and speaking a new language, to experiencing a completely different way of life. When I started writing Catch that Cat! I was aware of the importance of developing meaningful connections with family and maintaining strong ties to your country, culture and traditions because these were things that helped support me as a child.
In this week’s post we’ll look at some of the feelings children may experience when adjusting to life in a new country.
The pain of separation
Moving away from all that is familiar is a painful experience, particularly for young children. They may be leaving friends and close family members behind as their parents set off on this new venture, which completely disrupts their sense of stability.
It’s sad to leave behind a place you know and love, and for many migrant children, visits home aren’t in the picture for the near future. In fact, some children may grow to believe that they won’t ever be able to return to their homeland. This homesickness is enough to deal with; if they don’t like their new surroundings and aren’t adjusting well, a deeper sense of sadness can set in.
While there are many factors that contribute to insecurity within the migrant child, language barriers pose one of the biggest problems. Without mastery of their new country’s language, communication with those outside of family suffers. It makes everything difficult: making friends, doing schoolwork, and communicating basic needs, not to mention expressing deeper thoughts and feelings. Truly, the language barrier that exists stirs a deep sense of insecurity and frustration within the migrant child.
As adults we can take the lead and show kids that starting a new life in a new country can be fun and exciting. Nurturing those all-important ties with our home country, keeping traditions and culture alive and encouraging a fondness and sense of belonging are all important. Reading with your child is a great way to do this and one of the reasons decided to create a bilingual English/Greek version of Catch that Cat!. You can find out more about the book and my own journey by clicking here.
Photo credit: www.littlecrunchy.com