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Challenge: Open Discussion

Teaching Kids About Immigration, from Preteen to High School

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Teaching my kids about immigration has been a challenge. There's a spotlight on immigration as politicians move forward with the immigration debate. And then my children started asking me about immigration.

I had to explain to them that our family immigrated to the United States, Canada and other parts of the world, too.

There was a time when immigration was encouraged, and it helped shape the world that many of us live in. Conveying all of this to a child is much harder than it seems, but it is possible and maybe even important given the hot debate on immigration going on.

Start With Picture Books

Immigration is a complex topic for kids, and pre-teens and younger children may not grasp the conversation. Books can help bridge the gap, and Mama's Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation touches on the topic well.

There are a lot of books out there. Just do a quick Amazon search, and you're sure to find at least a few that will meet your needs.

Pictures and a relatable story seem to be generally better understood by kids, and they’re able to bring home the difficult points that us parents struggle with when discussing immigration.

Discuss Family History

Families that immigrated to a new country are filled with history and stories. These stories often pique the interest of children, and you can convey them to your child by explaining:

  • Who from your family immigrated?

  • What circumstances led to your family member choosing immigration?

  • What struggles were in the family member's country of origin?

It's important to help elementary school children understand the mass migration that has happened in the world in the past. There are reasons people immigrate. Explaining these reasons to children will better help them grasp the concept of immigration.

You can also express that every country has their own view on immigration, with some countries openly accepting immigration.

"Canada is home to millions of immigrants. This is a great place to live in and has one of the highest immigration rate per year over 250,000 new immigrants settling in Canada. One of the reasons is because Canada provides tolerance, respect, opportunities, cultural diversification and peace of mind for its residents," states Toronto immigration lawyer, Ronen Kurzfeld.

Relating to Friends and Family Members

When kids are in middle school, it's a great time for you to become friends with their friends' parents. This will allow you to ask your child's friend that migrated to the United States from Russia (or any other country) to discuss their history with your child.

You can have the parent:

  • Explain when they moved

  • Explain what caused them to move

  • Explain the difficulties faced

Migration experiences are very interesting, and middle schoolers will be able to visualize these experiences with greater ease when it comes to a friend or family member's experience.

High school is a time when the topic gets even more difficult. Students will start to form their own opinions, and they'll start understanding the policies that are shaping today's discussion on immigration.

You'll want to have an open discussion with your child on immigration at this stage.

Provide your children with books they can read, ask them questions about immigration and answer their questions openly and honestly at this age.

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