What Missionaries Ought to Know about Children’s Adjustment

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What Missionaries Ought to know… does not mean that the author sat down and decided what missionaries ought to know, but that missionaries themselves asked about these topics. During the author’s 35 years of college teaching he learned that if one person asks a question, others probably want to know the same thing—and if two people ask, it was certainly a topic that others need to know about. These are things missionaries need to know because several missionaries have asked about each of them at one time or another.

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People living and working in other cultures may think that they do not need to give much thought to taking their preschool and primary children along. Parents may think that although the children may not want to go, they will soon adjust and be happy in the new culture.

Although this scenario is often the case, it is not always so. Children who do not want to go sometimes never adjust, refuse to learn the language, refuse to make friends, and talk about going home for years.

Parents can increase the likelihood that their preadolescent children will make the transitions to and from the host culture successfully. Following are suggestions that may increase the chances of your child having a good experience in another country.

On your mark! (Parenting)

Probably the most important factor in the adjustment of children is the relationship between their parents. Someone has said, “The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” Although parents may not realize it, children are aware when problems exist between their parents.

Living in another culture is difficult for any marriage, so if you have not developed good methods of communication and resolving conflict, please take time to do so before going. Then you will be able to adequately do the following P’s of Parenting:

  • Presence. Parents are available for children. Of course, there will be times of separation, but when not out of town, parents should “schedule” time with their children.
  • Provision. Parents provide for their children’s needs, not only financial and physical needs but also spiritual, relational, and emotional ones.
  • Protection. Parents protect children by setting boundaries and by administering consequences as well as by their physical presence in times of danger.
  • Permission. Parents give permission to express emotions in age-appropriate ways as well as to try new things and take risks.

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