WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO SPECIFICALLY FOCUS ON THE TRANSITION OF CULTURES?

INTERCULTURAL EXPERIENCES AND HOW THEY CAN LEAD TO PARENT-EDUCATOR PARTNERSHIP CHALLENGES

Easing anxiety and opening up a line of communication is the educator’s role. To ease stress and anxiety, it’s a good idea to give the family an information package telling them about the kindergarten including settling in guidelines, language policy, daily schedules and information on the educators. 

The educator can also include information about local transport, local health centres and emergency numbers. This would give the family a feeling of being welcomed and that the child and family’s best interests are in mind. Within the acclimation, the educator's role is to portray a safe place for the child. Additionally, the parents can help the child settle into the new environment better if they themselves have confidence in the kindergarten and have discussed the settling in process with the staff. For Arno, this setting could be his literal “safe haven” as he is coming from so much turmoil that finding an environment that is warm, welcoming and consistent should provide him with a sense of security and belonging. 

As acknowledged within the case study, an unfamiliar environment enhanced by an unknown culture and language can lead to distress, disorientation and feelings that a child usually cannot self-regulate or verbalize in a way that guarantees appropriate support. However, aside from verbal encouragement, there are more subtle aspects a child will pick up on that decide how fast or smooth the transition to this unknown environment can be. By involving parents in a way that acknowledges existing differences, they receive the necessary support to function as a bridge between the well-known and the unknown. Prior to the first kindergarten visit, the child will likely never before have experienced this level of exposure to a larger number of other children or this great a use of a foreign language. It is possible that the approaches and the concepts that existed in the previous kindergarten were also very different.  

In Arno’s situation, these concepts and ideas are very important. If the family does not fully understand the language of the kindergarten, they will need to work extra hard together with the educators will need to build a good relationship and find ways to communicate. This may mean getting creative, and using google translate to write emails for them, or seeing if an educator or parent in the school could help translate when speaking in person. It won’t be perfect, but it will show the family that the educators are trying. 

Arno’s cultural background and his traumatic experiences will make this settling in extra tricky. In order to help him and the family, the educators need to know as much as possible about what he experienced so that they can be sure not to trigger any of his fears and anxieties or at least find tools and ways to help him adapt and feel safe. If struggles still occur, then meeting with the parents and finding a translator is the best way to try to communicate.  

The fear that triggers the unknown can be eliminated by careful and sensitive regulation in the form of personalized attention given by the caregiver. This gives the child the ability to explore in peace, which is the basis for getting to know the new environment and building relationships with the people and children there. Even in this situation, the potential for distress is present. Physical attention, soothing and the way a human body can be touched by another person differs between cultures. For the child, these are influential factors to evaluate during the transition to an unknown system. Oftentimes, adults have the idea that younger children, because they cannot fully verbalize their experience and reflect on it accurately, do not notice this transition or can adapt easily (Housman, 2017). 

Educators often hear from parents that the child is crying more or is sleeping less, and that the child is perhaps too young for the kindergarten or that educators should be harder or softer in how they respond to the behaviour of the child. This may cause the parents to question the educator’s approach, the acclimation process or the kindergarten approach. It may also cause an educator to question themselves. Educators are encouraged to question and reflect on their pedagogical beliefs with colleagues, but take this process as a totally normal moment of the acclimation process. The phase of culture-sensitive adaptation should be discussed in the preliminary talk and made very clear. Parents and educators must be aware that the child can adapt easily at a very young age if they both help the child appropriately and work together in partnership.