Sunday, May 22, 2011

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Helping children to make friends - Tips for parents of newly arrived migrants

I got a call this morning from the mother of a 10year old Chinese speaking girl who has only recently arrived in Australia. After a short period at her local primary school they have transferred the girl's schooling due to her lack of English skills into an ESL school, a few kilometres away from her home.

The mother is worried that her daughter did not make any friends yet. From her cultural upbringing the girl is not an outgoing person and she would not speak to anybody on her own account. The mother rang me with the aim to find out how to help her daughter make friends.

My first suggestion was to give her as much support as possible with the English learning. Once her English has improved she can move back into her local school and connect with children who live close around her.

I also suggested to enrol her daughter into a sports class after school where she would move and exercise and have an opportunity to meet new people. Benefits of physical activity are clearly demonstrated.
Kids in Perth is a free paper that shows events for children around the metropolitan area, sorted by date. It also has a few informative articles about raising children. The other free paper for parents in Perth is Perth's Child, although I am a bit worried about this magazine, as they suggest a cake and make-up as a perfect 12year old birthday pamper party.

Facebook nowadays connects most teenagers.
Social networking sites such as facebook would be a way to connect a high school child with 'friends". From my own teenagers I noticed that mainly their friends are people the know from school and the list grows around that group to include former school friends and people they know through sports programs. I allowed my children to publish a facebook profile under the condition that they include myself as one of their friends. This is working well as I can look at their profile and see what's going on without intruding too much into their privacy. I also noticed that they use facebook to communicate about school projects, due homework and for arranging visits.

Finally, Bilingual Families Perth offers to publish any friend request for children to practice English or the mother tongue in its website with the aim to connect people across cultures. Best is to get in touch via e-mail.

Having arrived in Perth as a new migrant with children poses lots of challenges and assisting your child in making friends is probably not a high point on the agenda for your family. Many of the proposed strategies need money, although the state government has vowed to help families with getting their children into physical activity if they do not have the funds. I understand that the financial support will be paid out directly to the sports club for children in need.

Please comment and share your suggestions for children of newly arrived migrants to make friends. I am looking forward to your posts.