Series: Anchor Points Favouring Adaptation

I became familiar with the concept of anchor points to school adjustment for my Masters thesis. I find this concept interesting when associated with global migration as I have experienced a number of situations where I felt anchor points are particularly helpful in promoting adaptation to a new country and environment.

Definition

From language related to navigation, an anchor is defined as a heavy hooked object that is dropped from a boat into the water at the end of a chain in order to make the boat stay in one place (Collins Dictionary). In psychology, the word ‘anchor’ has been used to describe specific points during a process of adaptation, such as experiences that are significant in staying in one place and adapting to the new environment.

Koizumi (2000) defines anchor points to school adaptation as elements of a person-in-environment system, which facilitate transaction between the person and the environment such as information, knowledge, family, friends, physical bases for activities, institutions and organisations. He outlines dimensions of the environment and explains that socio-cultural issues are particularly associated with anchor points:

  • Physical: buildings, location and rooms
  • Interpersonal: family, friends, teachers, siblings
  • Socio-cultural: culture, language, behaviour patterns

Koizumi (2000) explains that anchor points are used by a person to develop a perceptions and evaluation of the environment and to structure a basis for individual experiences. He continues by saying that there are anchor points in both pre and post transition experiences and that a person who explores a new environment will be using these to develop their own schemas or cognitive map. He explains that anchor points facilitate the structuring of the environment and later adaptation.

Reconnecting

We had lived in seaside locations for twelve years in the UK. As a Canadian, I felt I missed the woods. Growing up in the Yorkshire Moors, my husband also felt he missed the woods. We therefore decided to live in a location that reminded us of earlier experiences, something we missed greatly. It has massively helped in settling where we are now. We both feel at peace when we walk in the house. The kids have plenty of space to explore outdoors. The walks around the reserves are great. We had great fun yesterday playing hide and seek in the woods with our youngest.

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Moving to Australia, I have been particularly surprised at the number of anchor points that reconnect me back to my home country. Some of these I had completely lost in the UK and it has been great to reconnect. Here are some top anchor points, some more trivial than others!

  • IGA logo and shops
  • Coffee culture
  • Smell of Palmolive
  • Being in the woods
  • Veal
  • Laundry rooms and built in wardrobes in houses
  • Drier and sunnier weather

Anchor Points for Children

Anchor points are also an interesting concept when thinking about children’s adaptation to a new country. Although some exciting and new adventures are great and stimulating, children may also need some specific anchor points to encourage adaptation. This week, I was unpacking toiletry boxes. We do not have much storage in bathrooms in our rental house so I was aiming to declutter and throw lots out. Although I did not like the cluttered look, I put all the toiletry on the window ledge. My daughter commented on my work and said that she was so pleased the house looked so much more like a ‘home’ now. Although quite trivial, our toiletry, for my daughter, created a sense of home.

Children have also asked to do activities they feel good at such as hockey, cricket and netball. Although they are learning the rules of Aussie Football, their favourite sports are surfacing and they are keen to be part of some teams. My son was delighted when he found his hockey bag in our boxes.

Food and Culture

Over the years of living away from my home country, I have found that sharing food is one of the greatest way to connect with others and talk about my home culture. I regularly receive guests with a ‘fondue chinoise’ or ‘a raclette’. I have to be creative because I cannot find sliced meat, the same as in Quebec, but over the years, I have managed to find alternatives. I still make the same sauces and bouillon as my mother did and a caesar salad. I also feel that eating over a fondue creates a great atmosphere as it is a long dinner and talkative dinner. I always feel that there is a certain form of comfort to cook food from your home culture and share it with others.

It is comforting to find food that you like in the supermarkets or being able to cook something familiar. I often bring back in my luggage St-Hubert sauce for poutine, or des herbes salées du Bas du Fleuve. Visitors bring for us ‘des chips au ketchup’ and ‘Froot Loops’. I feel that by having some food from home, it helps me not to miss it so much. It is there as an anchor point, promoting my adaptation to global migration. It also helps the children to know about food from my home country and they love it…they love a ‘pâté chinois’, a ‘raclette’, a ‘fondue’ and home made ‘poutine’!

We have been able to find a number of ingredients from the UK here. It will be much easier to find food from the UK than food from Quebec. Many British people who moved to Australia must have felt the need to settle with these as anchor points!

Anchor Points: A Second Layer, A Deeper Meaning

In my experience, anchor points can be as important and great such as living in the woods, or very specific and little such toiletry. I have found that there is a second layer to anchor points, those associated with senses. Smell I feel is a particularly important anchor point that can generate some very strong emotions. For example, my grandparents owned a florist shop and, as children, we used to visit and help at the shop. The smell of the greenhouses and fresh cut flowers is particular and strong. If I walk in a florist shop nowadays, anywhere in the world, I am particularly overwhelmed by the smell linked to my childhood memories. A bunch of cut flowers in the house or learning about different flowers are also important to me. I have a lot to learn in Australia as my knowledge of flowers on this continent is pretty limited, but I recognised last week stephanotis growing in a bush, just at the front door, a flower I remember smelling in my grandparents’ greenhouse, a flower I had in my hair for my wedding…I was amazed when I found it and now I am smelling it every time I go past.

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As a child, I also remember walking the greenhouses and gardens with my grandmother and my mother looking at the plants and naming them. Recently, we had a visitor who did the exact same thing with me, she initiated a walk around the garden and she named all the plants and flowers. Unknown to her, it was a particularly precious moment as I have lots to learn here, but mainly because it was a particularly important anchor point for me, an activity of the past brought into learning about my new environment.

Anchor Points: Connecting with others

People can make such a difference in adaptation to a new country, in creating some particularly important anchor points. When talking to people here, I found it easy to connect for lots of different reasons:

  • people have relatives in the UK (I also experienced this when I arrived in Scotland, I met so many people who had relatives in Canada)
  • people have travelled and lived abroad too
  • some colleagues visited us a couple of years ago in our house so they can relate to us when we talk about our house in the UK
  • lots of connections to places we have lived, come from or been

Discussions then flow and it makes it interesting and fascinating to connect with others. The amicability of the Australians has certainly made a big impact on our opportunities to connect and meet others. Meeting one or two significant persons can also help hugely so that you can ask a couple of questions about the culture, the new environment and lead you in a different direction, to another person. I have found that just one person connecting you to a social media site or sending you just a bit of information has been very helpful.

Some Difficulties with Anchor Points when Moving Abroad

Although I meet many people from the UK in Australia, all these years away, I have never met someone from Quebec, either in Scotland or in England, and now the likelihood of meeting someone from Quebec in Australia seems particularly slim! Living in a majority culture, the language and the distance certainly influence the opportunities global citizens may have in meeting people from their home country. There is never been a big concentration of ‘Québécois’ around the corner from where I live!

Systems also use anchor points to promote adaptation in their setting. For example, in two of the educational settings my children attend, grandparents have been invited to come in to read to the children. For us as global citizens, grandparents morning is a tricky one, they are not close by. Although, educational settings may be using this strategy as a way to promote connections and adaptation for children, for us, it has the opposite effect. It may create some feelings of missing them, and wanting to be with them…not always easy to fully explain that we cannot see this person immediately.

Systems Facilitating Anchor Points

Systems can also facilitate the creation of anchor points. One of the schools my children attend has a class parent rep system. Very quickly after arriving here, I was invited to an evening out with mothers of children in the same class as my child. It was flattering to be invited, a great social opportunity. It really helped meeting people in similar situations and connect with them. I felt very welcomed and connected!

Some systems we have been part of have celebrated an international day where everyone brings food from their country. Children drew flags, learnt songs and stories from that country and culture. It really helped my children share, explain their cultural heritage and experiences abroad and ‘normalise’ their situation in a dominant culture.

We have recently realised that colleagues in my husband’s department experience  cultural diversity too so we have organised an evening at home where everyone has been asked to bring food and drinks from their country. We are certainly looking forward to the variety this will bring and also looking forward to hear their stories.

Objects and Artefacts

Over the years, we have built a number of objects related to our travels. We have also bought pieces of furniture and artwork/picture frames in different places around the world. When we decided to move, we did not want to let these items go as they all have stories. From our past to the future, we felt important to bring these items with us, stories that follow us around the world, significant anchor points indeed.  Significant objects and artefacts always reminds me of the Freud Museum I visited in London…I am sure we will find some new objects and artefacts that represent our experience here too.

Anchor Points in Global Migration 

I would certainly agree that anchor points promote adaptation. It helps connect past experiences and the new environment together. Do we find them? Perhaps not so much, they tend to emerge in a very informal way and unexpectedly as you find your way around this new environment you live in. Some information and knowledge may be easier to find than others and some specific strategies may promote these anchor points to be present in our lives. Systems can have a huge impact in implementing strategies that will promote the adaptation of global families. Some anchor points may take you more by surprise as these may be particularly meaningful. As a global citizen, it is important to be aware of these anchor points and how these can support a successful adaptation. These can be favoured by the individual, family and by people and systems around too. If you are moving abroad, look out for these anchor points, trivial and meaningful; if you are welcoming someone moving from abroad, you can also make a difference too!

Koizumi, R. (2000). Anchor Points in Transitions to a New School Environment. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 20 (3), pp. 175-187.

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