How to support students and staff when cultural norms may prevent them from asking for help
Jane Larsson Executive Director

 


By Jane Larsson, Executive Director CIS

 

One of our most important responsibilities as educational leaders is to check on the well-being of our students and staff and provide direct support when needed. This can be challenging when leading a diverse international community where social norms vary considerably. If you are new to a community yourself as a leader or counselor, you may find that local support services are not readily available or that connections to these services may not have been established due to language barriers or a lack of trust. These conditions can prevent us from asking for help. And we continue to face other barriers, ones that persist inside our communities due to ethnic, racial, and linguistic differences and the lack of trust they can bring.

Recent conversations with colleagues of color and those who are experiencing isolation or marginalization, highlight the need for targeted counseling and support. One colleague told me, “People are hesitant to ask for help or show vulnerability to someone who ‘does not look like them’, out of a fear of being further sidelined. I usually only share painful experiences with people from my background.” A Black consultant who provides safeguarding training confided, “When I step foot in a school, the children of color come to me, eager to share their experiences. When I ask if they have shared their stories with their school counselor or teacher, often they tell me they have not.”

These perspectives are not new.

Results of a survey conducted by the International Taskforce on Child Protection in 2015 included 392 international school leaders and counselors where 83% of respondents cited cultural norms as the top factor preventing parents from discussing sexual abuse/exploitation and 78% of respondents cited cultural norms as preventing students from sharing personal information and reporting abuse. Subsequent focus groups conducted with students further validate the need for diversity in the counseling profession, one facilitator reporting “…the majority of students know where to go for counseling and guidance support, but only 54% say they feel comfortable talking to counselors.”

Dr Christina LImbird and Chineme Ugbor, co-founders of Linden Global Learning

 

We have an important new partnership with new CIS supporting members Linden Global Learning Support Services to address the need for specialized support for students provided by a diverse team of counselors, therapists and psychologists anywhere in the world. I met with co-founders Christina Limbird and Chineme Ugbor a few months ago and we immediately realized our shared commitment to develop access to well-being and learning support through a team of diverse professionals.

Chineme Ugbor and Dr Christina LImbird, the co-founders of Linden Global Learning, said: “We are honored to be partnering with CIS and thrilled to serve the CIS community. We are committed to expanding access to individualized education and mental health support services with our team of multidisciplinary therapists and professionals. Our growing team of diverse specialists speak 16 languages and represent 17 countries around the world, including China, Columbia, Canada, Pakistan, Iran, Israel, Malta, Nigeria, Poland, USA and Zambia!

“As former Head of Student Support and counselors at an international School, we watched students struggle without comprehensive support systems. We noticed that many students had a strong community to assist their academic, mental, and emotional needs in their home countries but did not have those support systems at their schools away from home. Everyone knows it takes a village to raise a child, but what do parents do when their village is an ocean away? Linden Global Learning aims to be a village of support for all struggling learners living abroad, accessible from anywhere.”


Related content:

  • Explore the many insights, guidance and resources within our well-being blog posts that cover a broad range of topics and support.
  • Our members can learn more about CIS resources relating to child protection and well-being via the CIS Community portal.