Five pieces of advice from newcomer youth, for newcomer youth  

By: Alisa Samuel 

Published on: February 09 2023

Photo: Chang Duong (Unsplash)  

A research article published this year in The Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal highlights the perspectives of 37 newcomer youth who recently arrived in Canada from the Middle East.  

Alexandra C.G. Smith, a PhD student in clinical psychology at Western University in London, Ontario, asked these young newcomers to share their perspectives about the immigrant experience. The goal of Smith’s study was to have the participants encourage their fellow newcomer youth.  

Here’s a recap of the five pieces of advice they gave:  

1) “Moving to a new country is hard” (be emotionally prepared) 

You’re at a time in your life when people typically struggle with big questions like: What career will I have? Who am I in relation to the people around me? What college or university do I want to go to? Do I even want to go to college or university? 

Teenagers spend much of their time trying to proclaim an overall personal identity for themselves. Newcomer youth navigate self-growth with the added pressure of resettlement. While juggling what feels like a whole host of important decisions, they also deal with adjusting to an unfamiliar physical environment.  

If you don’t know the names of streets by your house, how the school system operates, and what community you belong to, it’s normal to feel lost and lonely—especially when your teachers and peers can’t empathize with your unique circumstances.  

Participants in the study felt that their parents didn’t even understand them. It’s likely these parents never had to deal with moving to a new country in their youth.  

These feelings of loneliness will likely make it harder to take bullying in school and racism at large.  

But don’t let that deter you from moving forward, towards a more comfortable, hopeful future. The hardships of your first few years as a newcomer are temporary. There will be a lot crying, but the stress behind your tears will eventually fade.  

2) “Maintain a strong and healthy mindset” (don’t give up so quickly)  

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from challenging life experiences. Resilience is the product of a strong mind. 

But how does a person maintain a healthy mindset when it’s so easy to think negatively in the face of adversity? “By reframing thinking to find positives and looking to the future,” says Smith. To reframe negative thoughts with positive ones is to remind yourself that there is good reason for your current suffering.  

One participant, for example, reminds themselves that their parents came here so they could study. That long-term educational goal, or the fact that this land is providing you with opportunities you might not otherwise have, is something to think about when the going gets tough. Resilience is key.  

3) “Take an active role in the adjustment process” (keep an open mind) 

The adjustment period after moving to a new country is long, but that’s because learning a new way of life takes time. Be open to what the Canadian culture and people might teach you.  

The first thing you should do is to learn to speak English fluently. Get a good command on the language so you’ll have the confidence and vocabulary needed to effectively communicate yourself. Break down the language barrier. Ask as many questions as you can to learn about your new place of residence and make new friends. The knowledge you gain from actively embracing life in Canada will help you make more informed decisions for your future.  

4) “Stay true to who you are” (accept your individuality) 

Assimilating to a new culture doesn’t mean you have to forget where you come from. Your background identity is valid as there are non-Canadian values and ideas that have shaped you as a person so far. The province of Ontario, specifically, is a diverse place where people accept differences in religious beliefs, culture, dress, and behaviour.  

Giving into the pressure to change who you naturally are won’t lead you to becoming the best person you can be. “If you have a dream and you came here to Canada, do your dream and don’t let people go into your dream,” says one participant.  

5) “You are not alone” (talking helps) 

Talking to trusted individuals about your struggles as a newcomer youth helps to lessen the load. Trusted individuals can come in the forms of loved ones and newcomer organization workers.  

Loved ones, like your parents, may not always be able to understand the particulars of your experience, but it’s worth mentioning to them that you’re struggling. One participant said, “So I think for me, what I like to do is I talk about it with someone, and it just feels like a hundred big things like lift out of my chest.” This youth cheered up simply because they were able to verbally relieve themselves of their stress, even if it was temporarily.  

When you and the people around you become aware of the things that trouble you, it becomes easier to find the right kind of help.  

Newcomer organizations are places of social support and services. Workers and volunteers are trained to understand the needs and desires of newcomers. They offer appropriate information about settlement and personal self-development.  

Reaching out and admitting that you’re feeling alone with your problems is the first step to finding, and even building, a community that you can lean on in your new home.  

Like or share this post:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *