By: Simran Saroya

Hi everyone!

I wanted to shine some light on a topic I am very passionate about and that is culturally diverse families and what opportunities look like for them. As we work with diverse families and diverse circumstances, we must acknowledge the culture in the homes vs. the culture we may be accustomed to. Western culture is what we base most of our observations and inferences on. What we must understand is that nonverbal and verbal communication looks different across all cultures. For example, eye contact may be an indicator to us that a child is paying attention although in other cultures it may be a sign of respect that they are not meeting eye to eye. It is very important for families, aides and therapists to talk about cultural norms and what that may look like in their household. Another example may be head-nodding for “yes” or “no” answers. In a western worldview, horizontal head-nodding means no, and vertical head-nodding means yes. In other cultures such as Bulgarian, this is completely the opposite. Although most children are accustomed to the western system, it is important to recognize that some may not be and this conversation is important. Lastly, I wanted to share an example of sharing feelings across cultures. As therapists and aides we encourage children to share feelings and express emotions openly while some cultures such as eastern cultures may not encourage speaking about feelings openly.

The biggest takeaway from this short blog post is that cultural norms are very important to understand especially when working with children from many different family backgrounds and dynamics. We definitely understand that all systems in a child’s life are connected and can impact them, but culture is one system that has a huge impact. By better understanding the roles in the home, the child’s needs, the child’s expectations in the house and the parents expectations, we are able to help the children much better.

 

I found some resources that can help us understand different cultures a bit better when working with children and their nonverbal vs. verbal responses. I will link them down below.

This one talks about eye contact and the differences across all cultures :

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3596353/

This one talks about head nodding and the differences across cultures around the world :

https://www.alsintl.com/blog/interpreting-body-language/

This one talks about emotions:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5381435/

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-03/uoa-wic030508.php

Prezi on Emotions: https://prezi.com/7uqz2kwlrp19/expressing-emotion-east-vs-west/

Non verbal communication examples:

https://online.pointpark.edu/business/cultural-differences-in-nonverbal-communication/