Culture Shock and Children: Discussing Culture Norms Beforehand Is Pivotal

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You have bitter memories of times in your child’s life; times when your child was anxious, unsure of his or her surroundings and unable to push through the haze of anger and tears. You understood, for example, that although the doctor’s office was lit strangely, that although your child was interacting with a human he or she had never interacted with beforehand, that everything was fine. You understood that your doctor was administering proper shots for your child’s health and safety. But your child had no real way of understanding that. Suddenly, their environment had changed, and you were unable to translate why.

Of course, in relation to this shot example, you got better at telling them exactly what to expect from the experience. This is precisely what you must do in order to eliminate any anxious feelings your child could feel in your new, vacation environment. You don’t want your child’s vacation—or your vacation—to be interrupted by this sheer confusion and anxious feeling. You want smooth sailing.

Essentially, culture shock is caused by the fact that a separate area of the world is mandated by different ideas, different ways of life. Therefore, the ways in which you’ve raised your own child—the things you’ve instilled in him or her—could differ with the ways in which your destination handles life events. Culture, however, is not limited to personal feeling. It also includes the food a people eat, the way they speak, and the way they behave socially. Depending on where you’re going, everything could be different. Therefore, your child has understood one world: the world he/she calls home. It will be difficult for him or her to imagine that another world exists beyond the boundaries you’ve set in place.

Of course, going on vacation is all about removing those boundaries. It’s all about allowing your children to understand that other cultures exist outside the tiny one they’ve come to understand. People speak different languages; the sun shines a little differently elsewhere. Yes—people eat snails in France. It’s their culture. And because your child has had to understand that the momentary pain of the doctor’s office shot is actually beneficial for his or her way of life, he or she can also understand that the world outside ought not to be feared, but to be appreciated for its diversity and beauty.

However, in order to allow your child maximum comfort while on vacation in a strange culture (or a strange hotel room down the street), you must continue a dialogue. You must tell them the various ways the place is different. The following sections outline specific details of the anti-culture shock plan.

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