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My son is crying to go back home months after we migrated to the US

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Dear Life Coach,

Four months ago I migrated to the US with my 10-year-old son. I had been planning this move for years and constantly talked about it as a way of preparing my son for it, and he seemed quite excited about the event. Now that we are here, things have not been going quite as planned. For the first month, he seemed okay and was his usual happy self. During the second month, he seemed a bit agitated and somewhat unhappy. Over the past two months, things have gradually declined; he stopped doing work in school, he has been crying to go back home to see his grandma and cousins and now he is having problems sleeping and refusing to eat. I have tried everything to console him, but nothing helps.{{more}}

Migrated Mom (MM)

Dear MM,

You are confused about your son’s behaviour because you thought you were giving him a better life.

What’s Going On:

Here are some factors that contribute to your present situation: adjustment disorder, home sickness, and depression. These I will address briefly.

Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment Disorder occurs when an individual reacts to a major stressor with excess anxiety, depression or antisocial behaviour, to the point where it interferes with their job, school, or social life within three months of the appearance of the stressor. Migration is a major life changing event and as such is a major stressor for your son, and it represents a loss of everything that he knows and loves: his home, school, friends, country and relatives.

Homesickness

Homesickness refers to distress or impairment that is caused by separation from home. Symptoms include: preoccupation with home, depression, anxiety, withdrawn behaviour and difficulty focusing on anything that is not related to home. Home-sickness is basically universal, in that everyone suffers from mild homesickness when they go away for a while (e.g. to camp or college), and that is normal. However, severe homesickness can be extremely painful and crippling.

Depression

Depression refers to feelings of sadness, guilt, and anxiety that extend over a long period of time and which negatively affect one’s sleep, appetite, interest, motivation and self-esteem. The individual may become so distressed that he or she may begin to have thoughts about self-harm and/or dying.

What to Do:

Keep your Son Occupied

While it takes time for your son to become adjusted to his new life in the US, it is important to keep him occupied with activities he loves on a daily basis. This will help to take his mind off the loss of his home and reduce his pining, while at the same time opening up new possibilities for friendship and learning skills (e.g. football, music, art etc.). Eventually, he will come to realize that he is having fun in his new home. Reading a good book, watching television, or exploring the neighborhood with family may also be helpful.

Keep Reminders of Home

Keeping objects that remind him of home will help to reduce the pain of missing home. So, encourage him to look at pictures, ornaments or other objects that represent his home.

Maintain Open Dialogue about Home

Talk with your son on a daily basis about how he is feeling. Also reminisce with him about all the things he loves about home. In this way he will have a chance to ventilate about his loss instead of bottling up his feelings, and he will know that you understand and care.

Keep Connected with Home

Help your son to maintain constant contact with both relatives and friends (via telephone, emails, face- book, etc.) so that there is a connection to his past and the things and people that he loves. This will give him a sense of continuity and the feeling that all is not lost. Also, let him visit home from time to time.

Change Feelings and Attitude

Teach your son to think positively about his new home. Help him to understand that he can view his situation either positively or negatively and the pros and cons of each approach. Let him know that seeing the good in every situation is an important skill to learn and that it helps us to survive in the difficult situations that we all encounter in life.

Reframe the Home-Leaving Experience

Reframe the home-leaving experience for your son in a positive way. Help him to see that leaving is something good, not something bad. Outline the opportunities or gains for him e.g. experiencing the wider world, educational opportunities, the possibility of returning for a visit in the future, meeting new relatives and friends who live overseas, (and all the advantages that are specific to him), etc.

Give it Time

It takes time to make an adjustment mentally and emotionally. So, continue to encourage and support your son. Once he begins to make friends, things will get a little easier.

MM, we never like to leave our comfort zone; changes are difficult, especially when we didn’t plan them. Children are resilient, however, and with time your son will be okay, especially with good friendships and an active life.

Life Coach

Need help with relationship and other problems? Ask DYNACII’s Life Coach. Email your questions to dynacii@gmail.com. To Chat with the Life Coach, visit: http://www.dynacinternational.com. Dynamic Action Center International Inc. (DYNACII) a non-governmental organization committed to social and spiritual empowerment.

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