The possible responses to immigrant families in cultural transition may range from a combination of information, education, opportunities for emotional ventilation/expression and support, contact with other families who have similar difficulties, to professional support during times of crisis.
Obviously, all these interventions need to be addressed in the migrant’s native language and culture; and since the family is the person’s most important, reliable, and external resource for psychosocial development as well as the key social group that intervenes between the macro-system and the family member, “family has to be also the matrix of the process of healing” (Minuchin, 1974).
Characteristics of the immigrant Hispanic families
1. Families whose members have migrated at different points in their lives and who have different psico-cultural definitions of who they are;
2. Families whose members’ previous life cycle issues may not be adequately resolved or are still pending; and
3. Families whose developmental cycles have been stopped or interrupted to deal with specific, urgent, issues such as procuring housing, work, learning a language, etc.
Planning for interventions must include the following elements:
1. Analysis of the reality wherein the professional must carry out the possible response;
2. Reflection on this reality in light of the research and studies done regarding immigrant families;
3. List of priorities resulting from the assessment of the needs found through the previous processes:
4. Design of different possible forms of interventions including the objectives to reach, the means to get them, as well as the processes involved;
5. Development of the plan including intergenerational family members opportunities for sharing and enrichment;
6. Implementation and on-going evaluation of what is being done.
Assessment of the Reality
1. Migration Patterns: Migration occurs for diverse reasons and the adjustment of the family depends on the extent to which is original expectations compare with its reality;
2. Country of origin –its political, economic and educational situation;
3. Age and developmental stage of family members at the time of migration;
4. Socio-economic status and educational background of family members prior to migration;
5. Availability of support systems –friends, church, ethnic group;
6. Degree of harmony between both cultures –the relative stress of migration is in part determined both by the country and culture of origin, and by the country and culture of adoption; and
7. Rate of adaptation and acculturation is a key indicator of a family’s ability to change.
By encouraging a family’s learning environment the confusing ambiguities of its members are probed rather than avoided and both parents and children not only maintain a sense of self meaning and worth but also learn to cope step by step with the challenges of the new and different environment
These mediating structures can facilitate or interfere with acculturation depending con the scope and foresight of the person who devises them.
The different forms of intervention could range from non professional support groups, individual counseling, family counseling, and group therapy counseling.
These therapeutic interventions must be concrete, directive, immediate, problem focused and action oriented. They must serve as catalyst for change, helping families tolerate anxiety, acknowledge the inadequacy of established patterns, mobilize resources, explore alternatives, and create new behavior patterns.
They must be directed toward:
1. Strengthening family structure;
2. Enhancing flexibility and improving role functioning;
3. Reinforcing the ability of friends, community and the larger social system to offer effective and appropriate support;
4. Promoting a clearer bicultural identity by helping family members to define values and beliefs which also enable them “to increase their tolerance for difference” (Bowen, 1978).