Ask a Therapist: “How can I help my child deal with cross-cultural conflicts?” (answered by Dr. Rohini Gupta)

Rohini Gupta, PsyDToday Dr. Rohini Gupta continues our popular series, “Ask a Therapist” with her answer to parent’s questions about how to support their children’s development of a healthy cultural identity when living cross-culturalls or dealing with acculturation conflicts.

If you are a child of an immigrant parent or an immigrant parent yourself, you may find that you and your family are struggling. Coming to this country, there can be mixed feelings. For example, there can be excitement for the opportunities and advantages that America provides, along with distress related to figuring out how to maintain and honor cultural values from your home country. This is not an easy process and can especially take a toll on your family who find it difficult to balance these two worlds. For example, at home your child may be expected to abide by the cultural values held by you but at school they may be expected to fit into the ways of American culture. This conflict can be difficult for children and can even lead to mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

There are many ways to support children who are struggling with how to navigate two culturally different worlds. For example, working with a psychotherapist can help the child and the family to understand this struggle and figure out the most helpful way to navigate these culture clashes. It can be important to first understand that a change in a child’s behavior in which they seem out of control or even disrespectful may actually be a symptom of distress related to navigating these two worlds. Being curious about your child’s behavior and their experience is a good first step. Children can begin to feel that they are flawed and not good enough because they cannot seem to be accepted in either culture. Helping your child see that they are not flawed, but rather that it is difficult to juggle two worlds is important.

Another way to support children is by connecting them with others who may be able to understand their experience. It can be helpful to connect the child with cultural resources. Finding ways to seek out and discuss these issues with others from similar cultural groups can be valuable in decreasing isolation and identifying approaches that have worked for others.

There are many paths to resolving this conflict, depending on what the child and family values are and what the ultimate goal may be. For some, maintaining their cultural identity from their homeland is the priority. Thus, connecting them with cultural resources in the United States becomes incredibly important. For some, adopting American values may be what is most important, and connecting those families with American-like experiences and activities takes center stage. For others, adopting a bicultural identity, where an individual can pick and choose what works for them in each world, can create freedom from the pressures they face. Regardless of the path chosen, what is important to know about this process is that it is fluid and can change as the child grows older. Getting support can be incredibly helpful to navigate the confusing and sometimes complex task of juggling these two worlds, which do not have to be in such conflict with one another.

Dr. Gupta is a therapist at The Catalyst Center, Her specialties include:

To learn more or to book a free consultation session call The Catalyst Center at 720-675-7123