by Iman Khan

Image: 123RF

Image: 123RF

As a recent Canadian immigrant, I have found that there is a learning curve for parents, as well as their children, apropos newer environment, faces and schools. Settling into a new culture can be a daunting task for most but as parents, the onus remains on us to make the transition as smooth as possible for our child. Here is how.

Setting expectations

With a little homework in advance, you can make sure you set the right expectations for your child while they embark on a new academic journey. Organizing a school tour would be a step in the right direction. Converse and engage with school staff and teachers to break the ice early on. Show your child around his/her class, and give them a feel of what the new school year holds for them.

Language barrier

According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada 2009, each year about a quarter million immigrants arrive in Canada, 1/3rd of which consist of youth between 15 and 25 years of age. With such a diverse and multicultural influx, language fluency remains a contingent issue. Not feeling comfortable in the English language can make children feel isolated and like a complete stranger at school, in turn giving way to feelings of alienation and exclusion. Inform your child’s teacher of their language difficulties and work with staff to help overcome the hurdle. Enable your child to overcome their diffidence, and work with proper training and exercises to ensure that they master their communication skills successfully.

Mental and physical health

With long and relaxing summer months, it is easy for your child’s routine to completely disarray. A week before school starts would be a good time to  start re-establishing their school schedule. Endorse an early end to the day to maximize healthy sleep, and help your child take on their following day with enthusiasm.

Establish a community

A great way to ease those frayed nerves and anxieties is to help your child socialize with similar-aged children in the neighbourhood or surrounding vicinity. Healthy interactions and play time with one another can alleviate the stress of being in a completely new environment, and has the potential to boost your child’s attitude and confidence.

Review school correspondence

Stay well informed and up to date with all correspondence material that is available to you by way of the school website, automated phone messages or school pamphlets. Keep an eye out for back-to-school nights to discuss your concerns and apprehensions with your child’s teacher. Mark your calendars for important dates and events to stay on top of your child’s timetable. Acquaint yourself with national holidays, occasions and customs to get prepared well ahead of time.

Healthy snacks and lunches

If you are planning on homemade school lunches for your child, pre-plan and involve them in the process. Get their feedback and include their favorite food items on the menu.

All said and done, children are resilient to new cultures and changes. With the right amount of support and guidance they will flourish in their new school. If you are a new immigrant with school-going children, reach out to the nearest settlement worker designated for your school board. These appointed workers conduct assessments tests and educate new families on the school education system and curriculum as well as other pertinent issues that arise.The Peel District School Board has 3 conveniently located We Welcome the World offices and are a great asset for newer families looking to ease into life in Canada.

Summing up with some encouraging statistics cited in this article by the Globe and Mail:

“Aayushmaan is one of nearly five million elementary and secondary students who will start school on Tuesday, one of 500,000 who are foreign-born, and one of thousands who will be in a Canadian classroom for the first time. It’s a testament to the resiliency of children that, despite the challenges they face – cultural, linguistic and financial – immigrant students in this country outperform their native-born peers.

They post stronger scores on standardized math and science tests and are more likely to go on to post-secondary education. The same does not hold true for immigrants to other countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.”

About the author:

Iman Khan is a new immigrant to Canada and mother of three. She is an editor at and a  modest fashion evangelist at