It is that time again when the kids go back to school and new families in Shanghai are adjusting to a variety of changes. Here, Lucia Hu, Canadian Certified Counsellor and Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist with ELG, addresses four questions from expat families. Kristi Kraus is a mother of two sons, age 16 and 14, and is from the US. Hannah Zheng is from England and has a son, age 5, and a daughter, age 2.
Supporting Children with Special Needs
Q. What’s the best way to work with my child’s teachers/school, especially if they are not highly experienced in working with children with special needs?
A. ELG and other groups run training sessions that equip teachers and families to help students with their specific needs. Keeping communication channels open is key and checking regularly with teachers about how your child is doing academically and socially. Additionally, schools often welcome specialists into the classroom to assess and develop protocols for teachers to support children with special needs.
Q. Our teenage son is certified emotionally impaired with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) and socializing is very difficult. How can we guide him to make good friends?
A. For young children in need of social support you can organize play dates or volunteer during recess to provide intervention and guidance. This can help your child develop awareness around certain social cues.
For teenagers, it may seem impractical for parents to be present and involved in their interactions. However, you can invite classmates to join your family during special activities. Observe the social interactions and provide guidance as needed. Another strategy is to talk about past challenges and ways to manage them in the future, or alternatively you can watch movies together and discuss social interactions from the storyline as helpful examples.
Signs of Stress in Early Years
Q. What are the signs of adjustment issues in children who are too young to verbalize their feelings?
A. Watch for changes in sleep, eating patterns, and behaviors that seem out of the ordinary for your child (such as fussiness or clinginess, which they did not previously display). Children’s patterns change as they grow, so it can be difficult to assess whether a behavior is normal or stress-related. Ask a professional for input.
For children who are able to express their feelings, parents can ask questions to probe what they are happy or unhappy about when they have a negative response to a seemingly normal situation.
Q. Living the expat life is a very unique and wonderful opportunity. How can we keep our kids “grounded” and thankful?
A. Being an expat is a special privilege for children and adults alike. It provides opportunities not only for enjoyment, but also for helping populations in need. Whether at home or traveling, you can participate in service projects or local charity organizations. Depending on the age of your child it might be an idea to study the history and struggles of the country you are living in.
Issues of adjustment can be complex. It’s always best to address your concerns with a specialist for an accurate assessment and professional advice. For more information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us on 4006 129 423.