Survey results do work! Several of you asked about how to help your teens re-enter their home culture. We would like to take a look at a few of the problems teens face as they return to their home culture for higher education and a couple suggestions of ways to help them.
When you see a group of PW kids together, they look like any other active, fun-loving kids. But when you compare them to their peers, they have some significant differences. Because they have lived outside their culture, they have a very different world view than kids back home. They cannot be nonchalant about poverty, world politics, religious persecution or a cholera epidemic. They have been touched in very personal ways with issues like these and have strong opinions.Money doesn’t have the same power all over the world. The American dollar may go further or not as far depending on where you live. The availability of things to buy is usually much more at home. It is hard to teach teens how to handle money when they go back for college. Some may be overwhelmed with the choices of things to buy and not be able to resist excessive purchasing. Some may see money as a means to buy friendships they aren’t sure how to get in other ways. Most will need a time of adjustment in finding the value of their home currency.
Many of our teens are used to being surrounded by people who see them as something special. They may get tired of always living in the fishbowl, but they have gotten used to being noticed. When they return to their home culture, few people will take special notice of them. If they are singled out, it will be to say they were PW kids. Their peers won’t know what to say to them beyond the occasional insensitive teasing, and will quickly ignore the fact altogether. Being returned PW kids doesn’t give them any special privileges or right to attention. Our teens will have to make the effort to get involved in activities and with groups that will give them the right kind of attention.
Living outside their home culture teens quickly lose pace with their peers in fashion, slang, and general cultural literacy. When they return they will be afraid of standing out as different. If there is one thing a teen fears, it is being different. Any way we can help our teens stay in touch will help them in re-entry.
Summers back home
We wanted our oldest son to begin adjusting to life in America before he returned for college. So, we sent Mike to Denver, USA, for the summer break two years during high school. He stayed with a family that we knew and trusted. We had a good relationship with this family and knew that their discipline and lifestyle were much like ours. They also had teenagers, so they knew what to expect from a sixteen year old boy.
We expected Mike to find a job and to pay a percentage of his airfare. If he could not get a job within the first three weeks, he was to come back home. We also arranged that his host family should send him back home if they didn’t feel it was working out well. This motivated him to find a job and to keep it and to be cooperative with his family.
Mike had never worked a job that required long hours and hard physical work. These trips helped to show him, and us, that he could do it. The first summer he washed and detailed cars by hand. The next summer he painted houses, inside and out. It was hard physically, but he thrilled over the muscles he developed and the money he earned.
The trips were not without difficulties. Mike was held-up and robbed of his wallet. His co-workers were not Christians, in fact several were on drugs. There wasn’t enough time to get his driver’s licence, a big disappointment to him. But in all of these, he showed he was able to act in a mature way. He earned favor with the people he lived with and worked with.
It took a lot of planning on our part and the generosity of friends to make this experience possible for our son, but the whole experience was worth it.
You may not have the contacts to plan a trip like this for your teen, but there are other options:
- Barnabas International holds re-entry seminars each summer in California for teens of PW’s. To learn more about them go to: Barnabas Transition or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Interaction International sponsors Transitions Seminars each summer in New York and Colorado. Go to: http://www.interactionintl.org/tcks.asp