Multicultural Concerns

Multicultural Concerns


This is a global world. It has become more commonplace for entire families to pick up and move to a different country with different cultures, which can be an extremely stressful situation. There is help and you can find ways to make this adjustment period less stressful.

Picking up a family and moving is stressful enough, even if that move is simply to a different house in the same city. There is packing to be done, adjustments to be made, physical labor, unforeseen issues and of course – the sadness of leaving behind what is considered home. Adding to that, and thereby multiplying the stress level, is moving to an entire different culture. You have to adjust not just to the move itself, but also to a new language, new food choices, different social roles, alternative values, unusual customs and even different religious practices.

When Multicultural Concerns Become Unhealthy

It is absolutely normal to feel stressful during a move that spans different cultures. There will always be an adjustment period. During this time, although you may initially feel excited about the move, you will eventually start to feel some sadness, anger, loneliness or anxiousness. You may try very hard to fit in right away or you may feel comfortable staying by yourself and taking your time to fit in. But over time – you’ll notice that you are starting to fit in and that the stress factor is slowly reducing on its own. You will notice that you are happy, are making friends and fitting into a new social group.

Let’s look at an example: Let’s say a family from India is given a great job opportunity in America. They find a new house, pack for the move and finally –make the voyage. During their adjustment period, they will have to cope with a language change, cultural changes from a hierarchical status to one where no one is supposed to be equal, religious beliefs from a primarily Muslim/Hindu culture to a primarily Christian culture and especially dietary differences. In America, it would be considered a nice welcome gift to receive a leather bound appointment book. To one of Hindi beliefs, the leather would be taboo. Trying to adjust may take some time. In order to ease this culture shock, the family may look for a neighborhood with other Indian expatriates. They may find a temple or place of worship with others with the same beliefs. They may surround themselves with others who have made the same decision to move across a country. After a period of time they will find themselves becoming more comfortable with the American culture and find they are fitting in better and not feeling so different.

In some cases, though – the person just doesn’t adjust well. The symptoms to look for include: extreme sadness, long term physical illness, long lasting anger, extreme loneliness or an inability to cope with everyday situations. These are signs that a multicultural move is becoming unhealthy and may require some treatment.

How Multicultural Concerns Affect the Family

Let’s discuss the family from our example above. The family is now living in America and is starting to feel culture shock. Perhaps the father in the family is feeling overwhelmed by the daily tasks that could be handled so well in India. Just waking up in the morning and making it to work on time has become a chore. The mother is feeling more and more isolated, which is leading to extreme sadness and feelings of being all alone, even in a houseful of people. The children are not fitting in well at school and are not making good grades. The youngest son is starting to have tummy aches every day and complaining he doesn’t feel well.

In this example, the family has not yet dealt with the emotions surrounding the extreme culture change. And without doing so, the negative feelings can propagate and continue to get worse over time.

The simple fact, though – is that even if one person in the family is struggling to adjust, the entire family is affected. A father who is feeling extreme culture shock will make an impression upon his wife and his children. They will feel his anger or sadness and will then assimilate that unto themselves.

One final note is that multicultural concerns can happen long after the initial move. As children grow, parents can be extremely concerned about whether their children are assimilating too well and becoming alienated from the original culture. They may become anxious that their children are too non-traditional and are losing sight of what values and standards the family has always advocated.

How Therapy Can Help

Counseling, especially holistic treatment can be extremely helpful with multicultural concerns. Holistic treatment includes culturally diverse therapists - those who are skilled with managing and reconciling the seeming vast differences between two very different cultures. With help, the move from one culture to another can be extremely Successful and lead to a very happy family life.

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