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Adjusting to a new country is never easy. The experience can be overwhelming, and coping with such an enormous amount of change can be stressful. And families with young children face their own unique set of challenges.

Luckily, in Canada there are plenty of resources for parents — in fact, you’ll find parenting resources in whatever province you settle into. There are programs geared toward all Canadians, and others that focus specifically on families who have just moved to the country. All of them recognize the important developmental stages of very young children. These programs are a terrific place to find support and to meet new friends in the community, and they’re free of charge.

In Ontario, you can find Early Years Centres that offer free children’s drop-in programs for parents and caregivers of children up to age six. While these centres are not focused primarily on new Canadians, families from all different backgrounds participate. Many of the centres are located in local schools, allowing parents and caregivers to get familiar with their neighbourhood school and to meet the parents of students their children may eventually be sharing a classroom with.

The Early Years Centres focus on four areas: “Getting ready to be a parent if you are going to have a baby. Helping your child learn to talk, play and read. Learning new parenting skills. Meeting the needs of your family by offering information about other community programs.” To find one of the more than 100 centres in this province, go to http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/topics/earlychildhood/oeyc/locations/index.aspx or call their toll-free information line at 1-866-821-7770.

British Columbia also offers centres similar to those in Ontario: Family Resource Programs (FRPs) are interactive centres for children, again up to age six. FRPs can be found in places such as Neighbourhood Houses, Friendship Centres, Military Family Centres and Boys & Girls Clubs.

FRPs provide “Family Support, Play-based learning, Early Learning & Literacy, Parent Education and Learning and Information & Referrals to families.” There’s a listing of all the centres on the FRP’s website.

For information about other provinces’ support for families with young children, go to http://www.frp.ca/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.viewPage&pageId=511&parentID=476 to find out what’s available in your area, or ask at your local school or library.

No matter what country you live in, the years from 0-6 are critical to your child’s future success. So don’t hesitate to take advantage of these programs as you settle into your new community—your child will enjoy it, and you just might too!

Natalia Diaz

Natalia DiazOwlkids Contributing Editor Natalia Diaz was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and writes about education and family issues. She lives in Markham, Ontario, with her family.