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Culture Shock

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: My seven-year-old is ashamed of being a newcomer to this country, and as a consequence she is ashamed of me for not having perfected the English language. She wants to be a "popular girl" and makes up stories about our extensive traveling experience, shopping habits, and wealth. How should I handle this?

A: Help your daughter find ways that she can show off her culture in a positive way. Ask the teacher if you can talk to your daughter's class about your homeland. You could wear your native dress (and your daughter could as well), bring foods for the children to sample, and teach them games that your daughter played with her friends in your native country. Show them special things or coins that you brought with you and teach them some words in your native language. Seven-year-olds love to learn new words and games or songs. By helping her classmates learn about your daughter's culture and heritage you will be showing them how special she is.

The teacher and school counselor could also help with your daughter's acceptance in the classroom by teaching lessons to the class about respecting and accepting all people. When your daughter begins to feel accepted she will not need to tell untrue stories about your family.

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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


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