Tips for newcomers: How can I ease my transition to Canada?

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According to Statistics Canada, newcomers make up about 22% of the population in Canada (and growing!). All newcomers face unique chances and challenges when they start living in a new country. Here, Kids Help Phone shares ways newcomers can cope with common settlement issues and ease their transition to life in Canada.

If you’re new to Canada, you may have questions about what your life may look like. It’s good to know there are people and places here to help you build on your inner strength and resilience. Below, we define some common settlement issues that newcomers may experience. Then, we break down some ways you can work through these issues and meet your goals in your new country.

Common issues newcomers may experience as they settle in Canada include:

  • Culture shock: culture shock happens when you don’t feel like you’re connecting with a new place. It can lead to feeling isolated, lonely or overwhelmed by a different way of life.
  • Acculturation stress: acculturation stress happens when you’re struggling with conflicting messages. (For example, messages from your country of origin — and messages from your new country — about how to act or what’s important.) Some young newcomers may also have the added pressure of helping their families adjust.
  • Language barriers: not knowing — or not being fluent in — the language can affect all areas of life in your new country. It can also impact your ability to access the support you need.
  • Discrimination: prejudice and discrimination can be a reality for many newcomers. Discrimination can also affect all areas of life and can lead to things like bullying, assault and harassment. 2SLGBTQ+ newcomers may experience specific challenges both in their country of origin and in their new country (e.g. lack of acceptance for their sexual orientation, etc.). Racialized newcomers may experience things other newcomers may not (e.g. discrimination due to skin colour, etc.).
  • Housing, job and money struggles: finding a place to live and a steady source of income can be challenging for some newcomers. Housing, school and other costs may also be more expensive than in other countries.
  • Family life: balancing roles, beliefs, values and practices from your country of origin with those in your new country can create rifts between youth and their families. This may impact who you hang out with, who you date, how you dress and where you spend your time.
  • Building relationships: starting fresh in a new country means meeting new people. Making friends and building relationships takes time and may come easier to some people than others.
  • School struggles: attending a new school can be tough. You may be dealing with an unfamiliar setting, language barrier and different expectations than you’re used to. You may also have to catch up from time missed during your transition to your new country.
  • Mental health struggles: some newcomers may find that it’s easier to access health services in your new country. This can have a positive effect on your mental heath. However, settlement issues like acculturation stress can increase newcomers’ risk for mental disorders. Since there can be stigma about mental health/mental health services in some cultures, it can be harder for some newcomers to reach out for support. If you’re struggling or notice changes in your mood, thoughts or actions, it’s important to talk to a safe adult for help.

And here are some steps newcomers can take to address these issues:

  • acknowledge any feelings of grief/loss over what you’ve left behind in your country of origin
  • connect with a settlement agency for support and help with newcomer services (you can visit Resources Around Me to search for these types of youth programs near you)
  • take a course in the language that’s used in your new location
  • journal your experiences and take note of your hopes, dreams and goals for life in your new country
  • write down all of the things you enjoy about your new country and post it where you’ll see it often (you can share it with your family, too!)
  • take time each day for self-care and doing things you enjoy (e.g. hobbies you’ve always loved or new ones you’ve found in your new country, etc.)
  • boost your self-esteem by finding your strengths and building on them (you could make a collage of all the things you’re good at and love)
  • be sure to take care of your physical health, including eating healthy foods, getting lots of sleep and exercising
  • look for ways to continue important traditions from your country of origin and ways to get involved in your new community
  • combat feelings of powerlessness by looking for things you can change/control in your life
  • look for role models from your country of origin/culture (whether they’re in the public eye or even in your family) who live your values
  • connect with other young people through the Peer-to-Peer Community at Kids Help Phone
  • join a community organization with other people from your country of origin/culture

Making a life for yourself in a new country comes with a lot of change. If you’re struggling with your transition to Canada, it’s important to talk to someone you trust.