Working with Immigrant Families

A guide to working with immigrant families.

 

Molly Sponseller, Clare Doyle, Katie Saine, Skyler Kidwell and Claire Garrett

 
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"Everyone smiles in the same language."
-George Carlin

 

Language Barriers

Parents May Feel Disconnected

One immigrant parent states, “We don’t understand English. We don’t know a way to see what’s happening.” (Feinberg, 2017)

"In 21 states, the limited-English population grew by more than 25 percent over the last decade, and during that same time period “61 counties crossed the threshold of having a population of more than 5 percent limited-English speakers,” according to the Census." (Trenkner, 2012)

Many immigrants feel like a burden and view American society as unwelcoming. They may isolate in their communities due to unwelcoming "English Only" culture.

The Solution: Communication

Parents voiced that it was helpful for them to have personalized forms of communication with resources to avoid misunderstanding and language barriers. Often times this comes in the form of translators. This will allow parents to clearly articulate their wishes for their family and children.

It is also helpful to provide resources for immigrant families to learn English and overcome the language barrier. With regular initiatives to learn the language, it typically takes immigrant families three years to attain fluency (Trenkner, 2012)

 

TEDx: Breaking the Language Barrier

 

Children's Literature

Books that support learning about the language barrier between people.

How Do You Say I Love You

By Hannah Eliot

A book for young children that teaches language diversity. In reading the book the audience learns how to say "I love you" in various different languages.

The Day Saida Arrived

By Susana Gómez Redondo

The Day Saida Arrived is a book about overcoming language barriers and fostering friendship.

 

Additional Resources

Click to Download

A Study on Language - How to improve support for immigrant families and eliminate the language barrier.

 
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Social and Emotional Support for Families

Social and emotional support for immigrant families transitioning to a new setting.

 
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Why is Social and Emotional Support Important?

Displacement can cause a lot of physical and emotional challenges.  For children especially, they might not know what or why certain actions are taking place.  Feelings of uncertainty, disempowerment, and fear can lead to difficulty transitioning to a new environment.  

Mental health problems tend to hold a stigma around them.  In many cases, trauma falls into this category.  Some immigrant families might experience anxiety, panic attacks, or depression. Mental health problems, if avoided can lead to physical health problems.  

It is important to think about the social and emotional well-being of students and families to bring back a sense of community that might have been left behind and in help adapting to a new setting.

Resources: (Hess, 2017)

 

Working with Immigrant Families

This video addresses some of the difficulties that immigrant families face, how to address them, and how to address them in clinical practice.

 
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How to Provide Social and Emotional Support for Immigrant Students and Families

  • Encourage teachers and staff to listen to students.

    • Allow students to express and share their feelings and experiences.​

  • Provide age appropriate ways to express and manage stress.

    • Give students what they need to express themselves and develop social skills. ​

  • Take note in change in behavior.

    • A stressful experience can lead to ​negative behavioral outcomes.

  • Make connections to curriculum.

    • Make real world connections.​

  • Teach with Empathy

  • Pay attention to what students do and do not say about immigration.

    • Students might not be able cope with their experiences and emotions, so be respectful and mindful of how they feel.  ​

 

Children's Literature

Children's books about social justice, equity, celebrating diversity, and mental health.

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I Am Enough

It features an African American girl who celebrates herself by perceiving the ways she resembles beautiful things in the world around her -- including people who look different

  

The Name Jar

The Name Jar explores questions about difference, identity, and cultural assimilation.

The Day You Begin

School-age children encounter and overcome feelings of difference from their peers.

 
Ask an Expert

Q&A with Dr. Robyn Hess

 

How to address questions about mental health, working with cultural liaisons in the community to connect with families, and culturally responsive support for families?

Dr. Robyn Hess is a Professor of School Psychology at the University of Northern Colorado.  One of her recent projects has focused on serving refugee families and students in rural school districts in Kentucky, Nebraska, Colorado, and Minnesota; through that project, she and students have interviewed teachers and families in districts that had a track record of success in supporting refugee students. 

Cultural Awareness for Teachers

A resource for teachers to look into how to teach in a culturally responsive way while engaging students of different ethnic backgrounds

Nursery School

A Culturally Responsive Approach to Understanding Immigrant Origin Children

Boys at School

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

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Children's Literature: My Name is Sangoel

Find the resource at the article below.

Find the video by clicking on the button below.

This book is about an immigrant child and the struggles he faces when no one at school can pronounce his name. Click the button below for a culturally responsive lesson plan on this piece of literature.

 
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Teacher's Role in the Classroom

Different ways for teachers to help support immigrant students and families.

 

Teacher's Role in Supporting Immigrant Students an

Create a connection with both the student and family.

Teachers should communicate with the families and discover what form of communication works best. If language is an issue, the teacher can write an email that can be translated or if the school has access to a translator that should be utilized. The teacher can provide the parents with pictures of their child or even have a face-to-face conversation if possible.  It is important for teacher's to offer resources and make the families feel as involved and as welcome as possible.

Provide Diverse Curriculum

Regardless of an immigrant student in the classroom or not, teachers should provide multicultural and diverse curriculum and resources to students. Teachers can incorporate the discussion of immigration. They can talk about different cultures by providing students with media and books. By including multicultural curriculum it will help make the immigrant students feel more welcome into the classroom, and be more culturally aware.

Create a positive classroom environment

Creating a positive classroom environment is a critical step in making the immigrant students feel apart of the classroom community. Since language can be an obstacle for the students, the teacher should provide diverse posters and pictures in the classroom to help the non-English sparking students understand English. Teachers can also separate the classroom into smaller groups so the immigrant students can be less stressed and have their voice be heard. The teacher's role is to welcome all of the students, and have the classroom be a fun and safe place for them to go to during the day.

Be educated on the Immigration system

As a teacher, it is their job to be educated on the policies and laws for immigration students in the education system. The teacher should explain to the co-workers and administration the rights of the students that it involves. If the teacher is educated on the immigration policies, they can help serve the families better. The teachers can explain to the families the steps they have to take. By being educated on the policies and system, it can help the families be more at peace and feel more connected with the school and teacher.

 

Children's Literature

Written and Illustrated by: Anna Kim

This book is about a new girl, Danbi, who is from Korea and does not understand the games, food, or language that American students use. She found a connection with some of the students and made new friends that helped her learn how the classroom operates.

Written and Illustrated by: Yuyi Morales

This book is about a mom and her baby coming to the United States from Mexico. She documents what their journey is like and how they had to adjust to the new life in America.

 

Importance of Relationships with Students

 

More Children's Literature about Immigration

Multicultural experiences about how children face immigration.

Topics may include immigration, social justice, equality, and diversity.

Website to find more multicultural reading materials.

You can also go to your local library to find materials.

In-person or online resources may be available. As well as chapter books, picture books, magazines, graphic novels, audio books, etc.

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Local Services

 

Dayton Services for Immigrant Families

Services provided in or nearby Dayton, Ohio to support immigrant families. Click on the star icon to be taken to the resource's webpage.

Welcome Dayton

"Welcome Dayton is a community initiative that reflects our country’s core philosophy: people with diverse backgrounds, skills and experiences fuel our nation’s success. The Welcome Dayton effort promotes immigrant integration into the greater Dayton region by encouraging business and economic development; providing access to education, government, health and social services; ensuring equity in the justice system; and promoting an appreciation of arts and culture."

Ohio Opportunities for New Americans

"The Office of Opportunities for New Americans is part of the Development Services Agency and focuses on making sure new Ohioans are job ready by coordinating existing efforts at the state level, communicating with immigrant support groups and by identifying and tearing down barriers that prevent or impede immigrants' integration into society and economic success."

Catholic Social Services

 "Catholic Social Services Refugee Resettlement Program is the only refugee resettlement agency for the Greater Dayton area, assisting those arriving in our community with housing, finding employment, and accessing services such as healthcare, education, and English classes."

 
White Paper

Works Cited

Feinberg, R. (2017, March 16). To Help Immigrants Succeed, Parents Work With Schools To Overcome Language Barrier. Retrieved September 24, 2020, from https://www.mainepublic.org/post/help-immigrants-succeed-parents-work-schools-overcome-language-barrier

Trenkner, T. (2012, January). How Language Fits Into the Immigration Issue. Retrieved September 24, 2020, from https://www.governing.com/topics/health-human-services/gov-how-language-fits-into-the-immigration-issue.html

Suárez-Orozco, Strom, and Larios. (2018). A Culturally Responsive Approach to Understanding Immigrant Origin Children. Retrieved on September 27, 2020. https://reimaginingmigration.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/NYCDOE-Final-IO-Culturally-Relevant-Pedagogy.pdf

Dessources, Jeffery. [TEDx Talks]. (2018, May 8). TrillEDU: Culturally Responsive Pedagogy... | Jeffrey Dessources | TEDxNewJerseyCityUniversity​. [Video.] YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KrxfcW7Irg

 
White Paper

Works Cited

Relationship Centered Schools[Video file]. (2017, February 15). Retrieved September 28, 2020, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=UUUerWeDsgpIXonQbacErsQ&time_continue=114&v=TWiNwQ_uoBI&feature=emb_title

Colorín Colorado. (2019, December 20). Ten Strategies for Supporting Immigrant Students and Families. Retrieved from https://www.colorincolorado.org/article/ten-strategies-supporting-immigrant-students-and-families

Burnett, S. (2015, January 27). Welcoming Immigrant Students Into the Classroom. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/welcoming-immigrant-students-into-classroom-sara-burnett


Colorado, C. (2020, September 4). How to Provide Social-Emotional Support for Immigrant Students. Colorín Colorado. https://www.colorincolorado.org/immigration/guide/student


Hess, R. (2019, December 20). Social and Emotional Support for Refugee Families: A School Psychology Perspective. Colorín Colorado. https://www.colorincolorado.org/article/social-and-emotional-support-refugee-families-school-psychology-perspective

 

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