If you have ever traveled to a different country, you are well aware of the fact that different cultures can be quite a shock. No two countries are identical in the ways that they live life and the way they carry out their everyday traditions. While a new place is interesting and exciting, it can be a bit intimidating to try to navigate and assimilate into a new culture. The people and the customs are different in a way that you may have never experienced. It is not only a learning curve, but also you may not have a ton of tools or have had a lot of preparation prior to experiencing a different culture.
This same feeling can be even more applicable to a child being adopted from another country. Can you imagine the feeling of intimidation moving to a new country and going to live with your new family? Imagine knowing that not only do you need to learn this new world, but also this needs to become your new normal. It is completely understandable that this might be difficult for any child as it would be difficult for any adult.
The Gladney Center for Adoption recognized this need for a bridge between the United States and a child’s current culture. With this, they created a wonderful video for children who are being adopted from China. The video features other children who have gone through adoption from China to the United States. These children happily offer advice and information on what a child’s life will be like once he joins his new family in the United States. They sympathize with the feelings of fear joined with the feelings of excitement as the child begins her new life.
This video entitled “Life in America” begins with children who have been adopted from China who are now in their preteen to young adult years. In order to connect with their audience, they began by noting that they understand the fear that the viewer must be feeling about moving to a new place, recognizing that it is completely normal to feel intimidated. The video is not meant to minimize these feelings but rather to offer some insight into life in the United States and what children might expect in order to help them possibly feel a bit more prepared as they enter their new life.
One of the first subjects that is broached in the video is the subject of what regular everyday life with a new family might look like. Each child tells about the type of town they might live in and how it relates to or is different from China. For example, they note that China has provinces, and America has states—making them somewhat similar. However, there are notable differences between the United States and China as well.
The housing might be completely different than they are used to, especially due to the immense population in China as opposed to the population in the United States. People in America are a bit more spread out geographically (typically) than those in China. In the United States, you might find bigger homes with bigger rooms and more rooms than is normally seen in China. You may live in the suburbs, or you may live in the city. Each child goes on to talk about the different types of homes they may enter and what their neighborhoods might be like. Outlining differences and similarities is important so that a child coming into the United States understands that there are ways in which she might encounter new things but also ways that she may feel very comfortable.
The next highlight about the United States that the children discuss is the holidays that are celebrated. Some have been fortunate to have families who celebrate Chinese holidays and Chinese culture. It’s great to hear of families providing racial mirrors for their children as well as respecting the culture from which their children came from in an effort for them to keep that part of their identity. With the United States being a “melting pot” as one of the children refers to in the video, there are many different cultures within the United States. This allows for a more diverse experience and even some representation of Chinese communities in various cities. This may make it easier for families to not only engage their children in Chinese culture, but also may be a highlight for a child who is moving to the United States. To know that children have access to their culture within America might be a point of excitement.
If someone were to ask you to tell them about life in the United States, you might take many different approaches. However, the Gladney Center for Adoption does a wonderful job of answering this question by having the children talk about a typical day in the life of a child in America. While these experiences may vary, each child may find that there are similarities in their experiences once they arrive in the United States. Regardless, this will give them an idea of what it might be like or what they might expect to experience on a typical day.
For this, the children follow a typical Saturday of a child named Brandon who was adopted from China. Brandon wakes up in the morning and has his choice of breakfast. With it being a weekend, he does not have school, but he goes to his extracurricular activities with his siblings or runs errands with his parents. The children also talked about how life may vary based on the season of the year and whether or not it is a season or day for school. They also touch on the fact that a child’s day very much revolves around what they choose to do for fun, what obligations they have that day, and what their family typically does in regards to mealtime.
On the subject of mealtime, one unique characteristic of the United States that might differ from China is the variety of foods available. The children note that in the United States, you may encounter food from many different cultures. However, the characteristics of a meal may look typical each time. While in China, the children may be used to having rice or noodles; the United States focuses more on an entree and sides such as starches and vegetables. The day then ends with a typical bedtime routine. This may include grooming activities followed by winding down with a book or simply heading to bed to go to sleep.
One important factor that the children touch on often throughout this video is the fact that a typical day in the United States—or the typical experience—may vary from person to person. However, the overarching idea is that many of these children who are coming from China are coming from an orphanage. The United States will look a lot different than life did in the orphanage. The children want to make sure that the child who is watching their video understands that there’s a lot of excitement to come, but there will be a lot of newness as well. This video is an attempt to try to help provide an introduction to some of the experiences each child may have.
One of the major experiences that each child coming from China will have is to be a part of a school or schooling experience. Going to school each day may look similar in China as well but may look very different in the United States. One difference that the children touch on is the fact that American teachers encourage participation in the classroom. This may differ a bit from Chinese culture and the culture surrounding schooling. This can also be a bit more intimidating as children who have been adopted from China may be new to the English language. However, the children ensure that they should not worry about their English not yet being up to par. The socialization that occurs within schools in the United States will help develop language skills as each child grows and becomes more familiar with life in the United States.
Another part of American schooling that may differ is the offering of many sports. United States schools may offer team sports such as tennis, football, soccer, wrestling, and many more. There will also likely be other clubs and interests offered through the school system that will allow each child to find something that he might be a part of as an extracurricular if he so chooses.
Even after presenting a very detailed look at the life a child might have in the United States, the children sharing their experiences in the video want to know how the child viewing the video is feeling. They are sure to note that it is okay to feel anxious or overwhelmed still. It is going to take experiencing the United States to really feel a sense of calm and a sense of belonging. This part of the video is very important as it opens up a dialogue to allow the child to ask questions and to express what she may be feeling. Children viewing the video may feel more free to ask questions that they may have about anything they have heard. The more questions they are able to have answered, the more at ease they may feel.
The children finally also touch on the fact that a child’s adoptive parents will also want to do everything they can to make the child feel at ease in the United States. They note that it is okay to feel scared, and it is okay to express this to his or her new family. Talking to their new family about how they feel and being open with them will help children to adjust to their new lives.
Moving to a new place is never easy. Finding new friends and learning about any school can be really hard. It is expected that this can be especially hard for anyone moving to a new country and embracing a new culture that a child is expected to accept as his own. This will definitely take time, will be an adjustment, and will be a learning curve. It will take a lot of understanding from the child’s adoptive family and will simply take time. It is important that children who are adopted from another country understand that they have time to adjust to their new world and new family. Videos like this one are important as it allows children to hear from others who have gone through what they have and have adjusted well. It may provide hope as well as insight into their new life. Even if they are scared, this allows them to see that children who are similar to them have been in their place before. Videos like this provided by the Gladney Center for Adoption allow the prospect of a new life to be a little less scary and a little more exciting for everything that is to come.
If you are an adoptive parent bringing a child home from China, this may be a great resource for you to show your child. It may help your child to see what other children have gone through who have been in your child’s same situation and may offer some insight that adjustment takes time. If you are a child who is moving to the United States, know that it is okay to feel scared or anxious about your experience. It is completely normal. Your adoptive parents want you to feel adjusted and to feel loved. They understand that this will take time and that everything is very new for you. Don’t hesitate to ask your new parents questions and to express to them how you are feeling throughout the process. There is no right or wrong way to feel during this time. Your new life in the United States can be very exciting but will be very different. Take your time to find all that America has to offer and find ways that you can feel at home as you adjust to your new life.