Family dynamics are the patterns of interactions between family members that influence family structure, hierarchy, roles, values, and behaviours. Family dynamics have a strong impact on the way children see themselves, others, and the world.
Moving to a new country can dramatically change a family’s dynamics. Not all members of a family may migrate together – a newcomer child might be separated from a parent, sibling, or extended family members who, in many cultures, are an important part of the family dynamic.
In cases where a grandparent or other extended family member is present and plays a role in caring for a newcomer child, they are often unrecognized and unsupported by programs geared towards the nuclear family model.
Language barriers may also lead to huge shifts in the power dynamic within a newcomer family. Children may be called upon to translate for their parents in a variety of formal and informal situations, reversing the positions of authority and dependence.
Differences, often cultural, between newcomer family values and the Canadian norms on issues like child discipline, gender relations, etc., can lead to embarrassment for the child or their family, and even occasionally to child apprehension.
Supporting newcomer children means taking into consideration their families, and ensuring supports and settlement services are available to them as well.