Common Adjustment Problems Facing Immigrants and
Settlement into a new country is a long journey and an endless process
involving both adaptation and acceptance.
It usually takes years to adapt into the new living environment.
Many immigrants gradually rebuild their life and become very successful
in the new country. Yet, some of them, particularly older people,
keep struggling for the rest of their lives because they do not have
the skills, experience, and flexibility to cope with major changes.
To be accepted into the new society, normally newcomers have to change
their thinking, behaviour, habits, social norms, and their former
way of life. We Canadians can help them by understanding their struggle
and assisting them in their settlement. By doing so, we will facilitate
their contributions to our society.
Imagine yourself starting your life over with some of the following
barriers outlined by Beverly Nann – Coordinator Immigrant Resources
The Uprooting Trauma: The first strain
is the physical move. For many, it involves:
- the pulling up of centuries
old family roots
- the breaking of deep, meaningful ties
- the leaving
of the familiar and comfortable for the unknown
- the disorientation
- the strangeness of the new environment
- and the lack
of familiarity with the local resources
It is difficult enough
for Canadians to move from one part of Canada to another. How much
it must be for an immigrant to move from one country to another.
The Rural to Urban Adjustment: Those
who come from rural areas are accustomed to a simple society where
place in the community and no one is a stranger. Often these people
are thrust into a fast, impersonal, urban society that can be
confusing and overwhelming.
Cultural Shock: There is generally little
or no preparation for the challenges an immigrant faces with respect
to their traditional value system. Both adult and children immigrants
face cultural challenges: the adults through daily interactions
and the children through the school system. How do you respond
to the new culture whose value system differs from
Loss of Social Support System: Family
ties and deep friendships are frequently severed. Immigrants often
lack social resources to draw upon to support
them through new experiences and difficulties in a new country.
Feelings of loneliness and isolation are quite common as newcomers
grapple with a new environment
and settlement isses.
Change of Economic Status: Often immigrants
come with special skills that are not recognized. A lack of fluency
in English and lack of Canadian
experience often leads to acceptance of positions of lower stature.
The struggle to get established frequently leads to a decision
the mother enter the work force. This can bring a change of role
and added pressures for the mother.
Role Reversal: Children come to have
power over their non-English speaking parents and grandparents
as they learn English and control
the communication from school and with the surrounding English-speaking
communities. They communicate to parents what they want their parents
to know and hear. Grandparents may find their traditional authority
questioned by their children and challenged by their grandchildren.
They often feel useless, lonely, isolated. They find themselves
totally dependent on their children with few meaningful activities
Change of Social Status: The family
is thrust into a new society where its members' social status
may not be the same. Consequently, they develop a need to establish
and prove themsleves.
Adjustment to the Educational
System: Many immigrants come from a strict, traditional,
authoritarian system, which separates school and home. Canada,
on the other hand, utilizes an open educational
system, which promotes parent involvement in the child's
education life. For many, this is a foreign concept. Often the
opportunity for a better education for their children provides
Therefore, the pressure to succeed in school is tremendous.
Parenting Dilemmas: The conflict between
family needs and individual needs. The Canadian society is an individualistically
society, contrary to the strong family orientation of traditional
The strict authoritarian discipline of traditional societies versus
our more democratic, consultative model; pressure to maintain the
old ethnic culture at home opposing the school peer pressure facing
the children to be accepted like other Canadians. The authority
of parents is challenged and parents are often torn between old
of grandparents and their children’s wishes.
Adolescent Identity Crises: Who are
we? Caught between two cultures, which values do we accept? Reject?
a derogatory term for Chinese who reject the Chinese culture -
they are "white
inside and yellow outside". They must lean to be comfortable with
both cultures. They must be proud of who they are or there will
The real advantages of their dual culture heritage must be stressed.
They can participate in two cultures. The crucial issue is whether
the two cultures can be bridged. Those who successfully integrate
the two are richer and stronger for it. They can draw on two cultures
for more creative solutions to problems to work and to life.
Generation - Communication Gap: As the
children begin to assimilate in their new society, many lose
fluency in their ethnic language while the adults fail
to learn English. There is no longer effective communication between
children, parents and grandparents. Often a feeling of distance
develops as children become better educated than their parents.
Some children become ashamed
of their family and heritage.
Negatives in Society: Visible minorities
in our society are sometimes faced with discrimination, misunderstanding,
prejudice. This negativity, aggravated
by a a potentially depressed economy, can sometimes
make immigrants scapegoats. As in any society, there is the
usual suspicion of newcomers
more established groups.
Many immigrants successfully cope with these challenges but there
are others who do not have the inner resources or experience to
deal effectively with them. We as good hosts have a responsibility
assist those who need support to successfully integrate. By providing
support services we not only strengthen the family and our society,
we can “head off” the development of major adjustment
problems. In addition, we can invite and facilitate immigrant contributions
to Canadian society. Here we have an opportunity to show the world
how many different races and cultures can live, work and play together
in peace and contentment. What a hopeful and exciting challenge
for all of us.