How a child adapts to the American school
Ребенок пойдет в школу, где говорят только по-английски. Нужно ли как-то готовить его к этому? Дочка пошла в американскую школу – ей 13, она многое понимает, но стесняется сама говорить. Как настроить ребенка и придать уверенности? Переезжаем в США с ребёнком 8 лет. Что важно знать для адаптации к американской среде? Всё это – вопросы людей, которые не так давно перебрались в страну и, возможно, сами еще находятся в стадии адаптации. Как психолог и семейный терапевт с 21-летним стажем, попытаюсь ответить на них, исходя из своего профессионального опыта и опыта мамы двоих детей, которым тоже когда-то пришлось приспосабливаться к Америке.
Immigration - stress for the whole family
I clearly remember the story of how my husband and I, already knowing that in a couple of months we would leave the country, came for shopping at one of the huge Moscow supermarkets. And they asked a question to one of the workers, Tajik: “Tell me, please, where are the camera covers here?”. After a pause, he asked: "What are covers?". And I, looking at my husband, said: “You and I will very soon be in the same position as he is now.”
Immigration is always a huge stress for the whole family. Therefore, each of us - both large and small - has to somehow adapt to the changes that, like an avalanche, fall upon us in a new country.
According to statistics, women generally adapt to immigration faster than men, and children - easier than adults. The brain of the child is very plastic. Children very much "grasp on the fly."
But I personally am not a supporter of drawing generalized conclusions. Everything is much more individual. The speed and comfort of adaptation depends on various factors.
From age features. Young children learn the language in a natural way and quickly learn, where and with whom it is necessary to use Russian words, and where English is, they easily switch from one language to another. Teenagers can already "complex" about mistakes or an accent, but they also learn pretty quickly if they fall into a friendly, supportive atmosphere.
From personality traits - self-confidence, flexibility, adaptability. For example, there are people calmly referring to the novelty, and there are those who are very anxiously disposed in any new setting. Of course, stress in this case does not allow them not only to memorize new information, but even to remember what has been learned a long time ago.
From the level of initial preparation for life in a new place (в том числе – и от знания языка).
And from motivation. I will explain what I mean. The one who really wanted to leave and live in a new place perceives these natural difficulties much more easily. And those who were brought by “force” or even deceived that we were only going to rest (and I know such children too, who did not want to go for anything), of course, they get used to it with great difficulty. Because within themselves, they “resist” this new life turn - or even hope that their difficulties and resistance will force parents to make another decision and return back ...
But it must also be remembered that children often directly learn from us adults. And this means that they repeat after us not only our accent, but perceive our emotional reactions as the norm.
Put yourself in his place
Recall, for example, what do you feel when you are trying to communicate with your neighbor, salesman, doctor or clerk, but he does not understand you? Voltage? Anger? Shame? Despair? Any of these feelings (or a bunch of them) repeatedly appears on your face and in your behavior, whether you like it or not. And when a child sees this, he learns to feel the same and react in the same way when he finds himself in a similar situation.
Thus, we sometimes unwittingly impose on our children the conviction that it is difficult to learn a new language, that we can never know the language perfectly or speak without an accent, the fear that people will laugh at us, etc.
Where do we get the conviction that “they will laugh at us”? Yes, from our own childhood, from the situation in which we grew up. We all grew up “in the country of abyuz”, where any neighbor, teacher or just a passer-by could curse you for not wearing the clothes, not being friends with them, not saying hello, making up too much, “not thinking about that” and "do not say that." And the children around us also considered it normal to tease, call names, offensively make fun of the unwanted. In such an environment, there really is a very big dependence on public opinion, and public opinion has too much power over you. And no one hesitates to abuse this power. We have learned to live with the eternal expectation of judgment.
“Your English is much better than my Russian”
But in this country there is another philosophy. You probably have heard more than once from the Americans, in response to your timid apologies that you do not speak English very well, the phrase: "Do not worry, your English is much better than my Russian." And they say it sincerely. They know that their ancestors were the same immigrants, they also started life from scratch, also passed through the stress of adaptation, etc. They do not want to complicate you with their mockery the already difficult task of survival in a foreign country.
Therefore, let us begin to part with our own deepest fear that someone will laugh at your child. And then the children will not have this fear either.
As for practice, yes, I am sure that the more there are, the better. Try to talk at home, be in an English-speaking environment, work on any training program that is convenient for you, watch movies and cartoons in English, encourage the child to answer the question of the doctor or passerby. Compete with him, who will read the text on the page faster or write 5 competent proposals on some topic. Try everything that “works” with your child, and find what he likes.
The most important result you should achieve at the first stage is not literacy at all and not fluency, but pleasure from the process. And at least some degree of understanding of the language. There is no need to learn verb forms - use better cards with pictures (or words in Russian for children who are already fluent in Russian). The more vocabulary will be by the time school starts, the less chance there is that the child will get lost there and decide that he doesn’t understand anything at all - and therefore he does not want to go to school ...
Do not intimidate, but do not reassure.
Do not assure him that there will be "easy." But do not intimidate, do not cheat.
Indeed, it may happen that at first they will better understand television or friends, and less so the school curriculum. This does not mean that they lie to you. This means that at school they are literally “worse thinking”, because there are a lot of unfamiliar words and the atmosphere of the “exam” for them is nervous. And it may well turn out that they will learn to understand the language faster than they decide to speak it. They will meet more than once unfamiliar speech turns, sayings, songs that everyone else knows, and they will only clap their eyes. But if you have patience and let them move at their own pace, they will surely catch up with their peers in a few months.
In addition, many schools have special programs or even tutors for children whose English is non-native. In some places, you can be offered a special assistant teacher who will sit next to your child in all the lessons and explain to him in his own language what the child has misunderstood. At first, these helping adults may even be able to speak. In short, find out in your school what rules and opportunities they have for children like yours. And get ready to collaborate.
My eldest daughter was 6 years old when we came from Moscow to Florida, and a month later she went to the 1 class to the most common American school, where there was not a single Russian-speaking student or teacher. We warned the teacher in advance that the child speaks and understands not very well - and she promised us that she would pay special attention to her and, if necessary, repeat or explain something several times.
Yes, until about the New Year we sat with her over each homework, referring to the dictionary, what exactly do we consider in this task? - oh, banks ... okay, so much clearer. Yes, she did not immediately have bosom girlfriends, with whom it was easy to chat while walking. Yes, we asked the school to send us a paper or e-mail about any upcoming events, because she did not always understand that tomorrow you need to bring money for lunch or dress in the costume of your favorite hero of the book. But - she quickly “grew up” in mastering the language and never complained that someone teased her or avoided it. In addition, the school purchased the RosettaStone program for its account, and allowed her to study it additionally both at school and at home. In the second half of the year, she no longer asked us for help with her homework, and when the teacher called us at the end of the year to discuss her successes, she said: “Yes, I can imagine the enormous work you did so that the child who barely knew English, by the end of the year was one of the best students in the class. " And I confusedly answered: "Yes? .. And I thought it was you who did all this great work ...".
And then, on the last day of school, Vasilisa got into my car and said dreamily: “Well, that's all, only the summer is left - and I'm in second grade!”. Now she is already in the seventh, but every vacation for her is just an impatient expectation of the next academic year. And for me, as for my mother, it is not important that she really studies very well, but that she studies with pleasure!
I really hope that your children will soon feel at school lightly and joyfully - and they will also help you with pronunciation and grammar.
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