Understanding the Needs of African American Children and Adolescents

Culture has been defined as a way of life; interaction and communication, which revolves around organized norms, thoughts and beliefs. Cultural aspects vary from; ethnicity, race, language, gender, age, acculturation, socio-economic status and education, and they are all known to have a strong influence on perception, cognition as well as behavior(Ahmed, Keith B. Wilson, & Jones, 2011). Cultural competency in psychology is therefore attained through multicultural consultation and cross-cultural consultation. These two forms of consultation are focused on offering culturally sensitive services that take into consideration the client’s cultural values and needs within a culturally diverse setting.

Cultural diversity in schools in America is evidently on the rise, bringing with it new challenges for the teachers and psychologists especially in the area of educational competence and mental health of affected children(Ahmed, Keith B. Wilson, & Jones, 2011). In preparation to tackle these challenges, psychologists in learning institutions need a thorough understanding of how a child’s behavior, learning capabilities and his interaction with his/her immediate environment are affected by differences in culture and linguistics. More often than not, a school psychologist will be consulted either by a teacher or a parent over issues of a student’s behavior difficulty or poor academic performance. Usually, that student will have immigrated into the country in the recent past and will have limited English proficiency; cultural and linguistic diversity. Since the population of such students has been on the rise in the U.S, psychologists in school have been prompted to offer consultation services using strategies and approaches that are culturally competent.

By understanding that a breakdown in communication will disrupt the development and maintenance of progressive relationships with members from diverse backgrounds, a school psychologists is able to dissect the problem and help to chart the way forward for the students and families in need. Armed with this knowledge they are able to identify communication breakdowns occasioned by a cultural clash and consequently give appropriate advice. According to research, when a psychologist is attentive and responsive to their client’s racial issues, they are bound to be sensitive and effective multi-culturally. Cultural competent practices when utilized and integration by teachers and school psychologist to address issues of students from different background s will be successful(Conger, Conger, & Martin, 2010).

Apart from the socioeconomic issues the student and his family are going through, Mrs. Moran, should take into consideration; racism, discrimination, the degree of acculturation and validation(Conger, Conger, & Martin, 2010). It is important for the teacher to gauge how well adapted Tyrel’s family is to the American culture, if highly assimilated or effectively bi-cultural then the challenges Tyrel is facing could be addressed with much more ease. If however, the family is highly traditional, there would be a lot of sympathy required with regard to their beliefs and perspectives on life and education in order to get Tyrel back on high academic performance and healthy interactions with other students.

Racism and discrimination should also be considered in order to help Tyrel in the process of fitting in and learning how to deal with the negative aspects of racism which are likely to affect his self-esteem and sense of self-worth. In the absence of overt discrimination, the teacher should look out and be keen on micro-aggression; insults to people not in the dominant racial group, which is a more subtle form of discrimination and is usually unconscious(Conger, Conger, & Martin, 2010). With much needed support, Tyrel can be more open to other students from different cultural backgrounds and benefit and grow from those interactions. The issue of validation is based on whether Tyrel feels valued at home and in school, since this will also affect his self-confidence and hinder his ability to live up to his potential. Parent-teacher collaboration through active involvement in Tyrel’s life at home and in school will definitely help with his struggles and learning process.

Economic hardships have an influence on the life of a child through their parent’s lives. This influence is indirect in that, high Socio-economic pressures impact how parents function emotionally and behaviorally which in turn has a bearing on how the children adjust, causing them to be at heightened risk of behavioral and emotional problems. Problems in the parent’s relationship  that are brought about by economically influenced factors affect their relationship with the children since they are likely to be uninvolved, harsh and inconsistent in their parental responsibilities. In this case, disrupted parenting is a direct result of inter-parental conflict.

There is a proven link between parental conflicts, distressed parents and the development of a child. The competent functioning of a child decrease, that is, his success in school, cognitive abilities, relationship with parents and social capabilities.  Anxiety, depression (internalizing problems), anti-social behavior and aggression (externalizing problems) on the other hand increase(Conger, Conger, & Martin, 2010). Negative parenting styles; harshness and inconsistency, as exhibited by stressed out parents, results in poor academic performance of their children coupled with behavioral and emotional problems, as seen with Tyrel. Positive parenting styles; involvement and warmth will reflect in progressive competent development of their children.

If a timely intervention is not done, Tyrel might suffer from the effects of achievement gap which separates students along socioeconomic lines. According to this theory, disadvantaged children from Black and Hispanic communities exhibit poor academic performance which causes them to eventually drop out of school. Falling behind in school means the student might not graduate, which makes it less likely for them to acquire a college degree this condemning them to low-class quality of life. By missing school during the period the family will be evicted and other times for whatever economic challenges the family will be facing, Tyrel’s potential to catch up and graduate will be curtailed, diminishing his ability to compete effectively in the global job market. If his parents are encouraged against all odds to be actively involved in Tyrel’s academic life, he is likely inspire him to perform better academically earning the opportunity to go to high school, college and eventually lead a much better life.

Mrs. Moran will need to work with Tyrel’s parents first by connecting with them, making them collaborators & allies and constantly updating them on Tyrel’s performance. The fact the parents are very busy might be a challenge to these strategies since they both have to work and watch Tyrel’s siblings. Mrs. Moran will need to utilize technology in order to stay in touch with them. This collaboration between the teacher and the parents will work because it will give Tyrel the validation and acceptance he requires both at home and in school, helping him to build his confidence while becoming a culturally competent individual capable of thriving despite the odds. The involvement of his parents will inspire him to perform academically thus improving his chances of becoming a high-achiever in life.

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