Culture shock for 6yo - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 08-10-2009, 03:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I will cross-post this in the "parenting" forum because the question is rather broad:

In a couple of weeks we are taking DS on his first trip to Africa to visit his grandfather (my dad). We will stay 2 weeks at my dad's house, with his current wife and 2 teenage children whom none of us have ever met. We will be in a semi-rural area with a large town reachable by public transport.

DS is very excited about the whole thing, but I have a few worries:

- He is very habitudinarian (word?). Very much into his routines, not adventurous with food, shy with strangers. He will of course be dunked into an entirely different world. I have tried to familiarise him with some things, telling him about the food he will find, showing him may pictures, looking up the exact places we will be on google maps, etc. What else can I do to ease the culture shock?

- I know there will be a constant stream of visitors friends & relatives of my father to come and see us. I know we will be expected to spend a lot of time on the veranda drinking tea and making polite conversation. I know children are expected to be respectful, polite and answer questions etc. My DS is very lively, cheeky, not always respectful. He will often play shy, hiding behind me and refusing to speak. He may make akward comments about African people he is not used to seeing (recently he commented a picture of my dad saying that he looked like a coconut. I know he is innocent in his meanings but could very easily be offensive). How can I explain what behaviour is expected of him, and how can I "enforce" it without being repressive or disrespectful towards him?

- DS is a hygiene freak. I know my dad's house will be OK, but I also know that the general area is likely to be very dirty and rubbishy with respect to our neat-and-tidy little town. My DS is the one who refused to enter a barn to see the sweet new-born calves on a school trip, because he didn't want to get his shoes dirty. I am worried he may be grossed out by some things and I want him to have serene and happy stay also because it will be so short.

- I am really worried about public transport, which is very dangerous (over-crowded, overspeeding buses, under-maintained overspeeding collective taxis - you get the idea). But that is the only way to get to see some fun stuff, like wild animal sanctuary, museum, snake park, even just a swimming pool. Otherwise we will be stuck in Dad's compound for the duration of the stay.

OK, maybe I am obsessing more that necessary, I just so much want this to go well for everyone, DS & his grandfather have never seen each other, and a long time will pass before it can happen again...

Advice, suggestions, encouragement please!

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#2 of 11 Old 08-13-2009, 08:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Not one response? No-one here has ever taken their children from a familiar setting to an unfamiliar one that required preparation, adaptation...?

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#3 of 11 Old 08-13-2009, 09:21 PM
 
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I really don't think there is much more that you can do. Can you cook a few traditional dishes, or get some of the food that he will be eating and try them out at home? As far as him being expected to behave one way....well I don't have great advice there. I'm sure that your family and friends are going to be overjoyed to just see your DS- and you will have to be the buffer and protect him. That's what I have to do with my kids in certain situations.

Kids are very adaptave and resialiant and though he's one way at home- he may be totally different at your dad's house. Like- almost unrecognizable! He also will feel what you are feeling...stressed over this? then he will be stressed too. angry or hurt or scared- then he will mirror those emotions and feelings. Try to remain calm and comfrotable and ask that he be calm too.

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#4 of 11 Old 08-13-2009, 09:27 PM
 
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Are there any kids movies with a setting in a similar area. Maybe that way your dad's place may be a little more familiar. While watching the movie you could point out things he may see or experience at your dad's. I'd also point out how the kids in the movie are behaving and how that is different from what's expected of them in his own country. I can't help with any movie titles though since I rarely ever have seen any movies. Someone else may have to come up with that one.
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#5 of 11 Old 08-13-2009, 11:02 PM
 
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What part of Africa? I can see if I can find a couple video's for you, though it'll probably be on Youtube or something. Or maybe some pictures?

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#6 of 11 Old 08-14-2009, 12:51 AM
 
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i have. my totally social child.

and she cant wait to move there. she LOVED it there. she just loved the people and all the attention she got.

the thing is you never know how your child is going to react. i think its FANTASTIC you can take him at 6. i know it gets harder for them when they go when they are older. i remember my 10 year old cousins having a hard time.

culturally my culture is v. child friendly so they would have no problems if my dd was having a shy moment or didnt wnat to come out.

how to prepare. i have no clue. i did nothing to prepare.

where i am from public transport is dangerous too. compared to american standards. but not for my county. no car seats. the lot. my dd loved the public transport. we took it during off peak times. everyone would talk to my dd so she enjoyed public transport.

the thing is - you cannot predict anything. you just do not know.

i was concerned how my dd would react to the food. she took to it like a fish out of water. and still refused my cooking of the same food but walloped down what my mom cooked.

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#7 of 11 Old 08-15-2009, 12:13 AM
 
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I, too, have a 6yo, and we are getting ready to move to Africa. I have some of the same concerns as you, but I'm not sure what all to do about it. Like another poster said, you can't predict everything. As far as behaviour and hygiene, it might make for some awkward moments, but they will pass. There will likely be SOMETHING he likes to eat--I'm putting my hope in ugali, chapatis, stew, mangos, pineapple, and bananas. Really, any fruit or starch, and eggs. He certainly won't starve! I worry a lot about public transport, and having enough money to buy a car is a tremendous concern for us (since we are moving there.) However, I can't worry about everything, and worrying won't change anything. If you have the money, you could probably hire a driver for the day to take you to the snake park, national park, etc. That way, you could insist on seatbelts, reasonable speed, and a safe vehicle. If you have the Nissan minivans where you are going, they do tend to be overful and speedy--maybe avoid them if worried about safety! Have some relaxing days and some fun kids days--and if you have access to a place that serves food that you are used to, or has a playground or something he finds familiar, that might be good about halfway through your stay. Enjoy!!!
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#8 of 11 Old 08-15-2009, 03:45 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi and thanks for the replies - DocsNemesis, we are going to Kenya. MamaEli, by the food you describe that sounds like your destination too, or at least somewhere else close in East Africa . I am generally not happy with the type of child compatible films available on africa because they tend to gravitate all to the "jungle child in loincloth and mud hut" stereotype. But I had not thought to look up clips on you-tube. That I will do.
Probably I overworry because I am that type. But I am trying to show nothing but enthusiasm. Off peak will probably be the best times to program to travel. We are hiring a car for one day in Nairobi, but then we are off to Dad's place on Lake Victoria. Just a few more days to go...:

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#9 of 11 Old 08-15-2009, 05:23 PM
 
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Yep, Kenya it is!!!!::: And our Oshago is Luoland as well.....Gem, Siaya. But we'll be in Nai, since that's where I'll be teaching. There really are not a lot of good films, I agree. but on youtube, there's one called Nairobi Street Food that's really entertaining. There are so many places in Westlands (Village market etc) for that bit of Western life, Trattoria and more for Italian food too.
He'll probably have a blast, but it will take some getting used to. Too bad you guys only have a couple of weeks---enjoy! DD2 is assualting me--human jungle gym--needs to sleep--have a great time.
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#10 of 11 Old 08-15-2009, 05:28 PM
 
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Just wandered in.... my thought was to bring along as many of his routines as you can. For example, when I travel with my dd, I always bring her favourite bedtime books and make sure to stick to her same bedtime routine as exactly as I can even though we aren't at home. Good luck!

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#11 of 11 Old 08-20-2009, 12:59 PM
 
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Wow, seriosa, our DSs seem very similar! And DS and I just recently returned from a trip to rural Mexico to see all my in-laws so this idea of early childhood culture shock is fresh in my mind.

I hope it doesn't discourage you to say that my DS really struggled a lot this time around visiting Mexico (we also made trips to DH's small hometown when DS was 1 y/o and 2 y/o). Muddy streets, overly affectionate senoras, dirty bathrooms, and a general mix-up of the whole daily routine left him out-of-sorts and weepy.

While I fully understand your desire for this to be a positive experience for your son and your father and everyone else in the family, I would remind you that you can't possibly make everyone perfectly happy in this scenario. It would be unrealistic to think that your DS will actually change his behavior overnight in order to be more like the children where you will be visiting. During my trip to Mexico, my FIL actually commented that DS's "blood wasn't truly Mexican" because he came off as being so sensitive and anxious. Initially, I was very hurt by my FIL's comment and frustrated that DS couldn't just act like a happy, active Mexican kid. With time, I've come to realize that I was probably expecting too much from both of them...

I would just encourage you to take a deep breath and prepare yourself to be comfortable with whatever the trip brings. I would also encourage you to carve out a space and time everyday where you and your DS can be alone together and re-center. I understand what it is to have a million visitors who will want to see your DS, but this will make it all the more important that you reserve time for him to be able to relax and reflect on all the new experiences with you.

Good luck!

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