How Can Parents Support Their Children in a New Country?
It is quite an amazing challenge to leave one’s homeland and to come to a different country. There are many things a parent can do to help their child adapt to their new cultural surroundings. This webinar with 2 experienced secondary principals discusses various things parents can do to support their families transition to Canada.
Michelle Lemaire is the Principal of the Welcome Centre in the Halton District School Board. New families start their journey here with very helpful staff who help parents and students find their way in Canadian society. Youth settlement specialists support the family transition to their new life in Canada and help with everything from accommodation, translations, banking, and networking. Educators assess student language skills and get them set up in the appropriate educational programs.
Bev Ohashi, who is the Head of School at Laureate College and has been the principal of two big High Schools in Toronto DSB, wants her students to be proud of their cultural identity. She wants her students to know you are not leaving it behind. In our Canadian schools we want students to talk about their cultural traditions and customs. Teachers want students in our elementary and secondary classrooms to learn about culturally different foods, dress, games and home life. It is a wonderful learning opportunity for everyone. It’s important for our new students to feel their cultural backgrounds are important and an asset for everyone in their class and for their own future growth and personal development.
Both Michelle and Bev agreed that schools want to celebrate multilingualism. Your first language is an important asset for helping you learn the second language. Educators use comprehensible input strategies when teaching English Language Learners. Students learning an additional language can use their first language to help them make sense of not only grammatical tasks, but of the world around them (The Multi Literacy Project). Dual texts, or bilingual texts, are texts that appear side by side in two different languages. It is an effective way to explore literature in your target language. Dual language strategies for example promote the student to complete projects or writing tasks in both English and their home language which is highly motivational and an effective way to learn vocabulary (Lisa Leoni). Canadian education is about active learning and in this way, teachers promote student participation and get English language learners involved with classroom initiatives.
Principal Lemaire emphasized that parents are very welcome to get involved in the life of their child’s school. Ontario schools have “Parent Counsels” that can discuss issues and help the principal and staff with various initiatives. Boards of education in Ontario also promote Parent Involvement Committees (PIC) and conferences to help keep parents informed on how they can be involved in multiple ways in schools.
Both Bev and Michelle added that parents have a very important role in helping their children transition to their new setting. The system here can be so different from what you have been used to. Parents can encourage their children of any age to try new things and start with activities that are familiar. This is called “Nudging”. Find a friend who has a similar interest or hobby. Find a club that you can participate in. There you will find friends who have similar interests where language is not a barrier. Both Michelle and Bev said that they promote students to take small steps to help them feel part of their new school and cultural environment. Just participate in what you can comfortably take on. Get involved in the extramural activities for example.
Bev and Michelle both emphasized that it is important to have family conversations at dinner. You can use a family circle strategy where everyone has a chance to speak. Make it a goal to have your children talk about their positive interactions or challenges during the day. Parents can talk about their day too and role model how they managed various situations. It is important to teach your children to be resilient and how to adapt to your new surroundings.
Michelle Lemaire added that is important for educators and parents to focus on the 40 positive supports and strengths that young people need to succeed in life. A link has been provided below that explores the “Developmental Assets Framework”. Check it out!!!
Thank you to Bev and Michelle for presenting to the Laureate College School family on such an important topic! Thank you also to Renee Zhu, for setting up our webinar today.