Many of our youngest children may not follow the different stages of assimilation. They are young children for whom life is an adventure. But, a child may be impacted by his or her family’s reactions to living in a new country. Many of our children are from families who have recently made the United States their home. By understanding the stages of assimilation, we can provide support and understanding to families and better deal with children’s emotions in our classrooms and daycares.
Like many stage theories, people do not always move from one stage to another in a fluid sequence. We present these four stages below merely as a guide to help you understand your families. We use names for these stages that begin with an H, as they seem easier to remember.
When people first arrive in a new country, they go through what we might consider the Honeymoon Period. Everything is new and exciting. Families might explore, delight in the easy access to goods and services. They may enjoy thinking about all that is different and inviting.
After the initial excitement wear down, people move into a period that can be termed the Hostility Period. Newcomers to a country are realizing they can’t enjoy the foods they once did. They may be experiencing frustration with the language. At this point, people may want to surround themselves with people from their former country. They miss their homes along with family and friends they left behind. If families are in this phase, those that work with them can be extra understanding.
As people move into the Humor Period, they begin to negotiate their new culture with their former culture. They see the good in both. Families may make friends with other parents in the classroom. They may be more willing to try out their new language and even laugh at themselves when mistakes are made. This stage can last a long time. Some people never leave this period.
Finally, people move into the Home Period. They have accepted their new country and culture as their own. Families may speak of the new country as home. The new language is spoken fluently and both old and new cultures are valued.
NAEYC – 2.A.04. & 2.D.01.
Head Start – IX. A., B., & C.