Moving to a new country is one of the most stressful events of any adult life. You are scared, excited, overwhelmed, you feel like everything is out of your control, yet something deep down keeps telling that everything is going to be alright.
It is chaotic, yet you know why you decided to step out of your comfort zone and become an expat. If you have children, you will face many hard decisions and we are here to help you with some of them.
Don’t be frightened! If you play this right, your expat child will be a global citizen with more confidence, and appreciation for diversity. Sure, that sounds like a perfect base for a happy, content adult. So, how do we get to that point?
Is Expat Life Good For Your Children?
Children don’t fully understand what it means to leave home and create a new one in some place they may never have even heard of. Some children develop Expat Child Syndrome, a term used by psychologists for children experiencing stress from a move overseas.
It is more common among children between 10 and 15. Puberty is hard enough. Taking away their family and friends, and their whole support system is a serious matter. So if your child is acting out, it may not be just because of the hormones.
It is best to show your negotiating skills and show your children that moving is going to make their lives richer. Don’t go overboard with promises. Make a realistic positive picture. Don’t promise unicorns, castles or rainbows.
The younger the child, the less work you will have to do. Google is going to be your best friend in the weeks before the big move. You will have to find a school or get your child into clubs so you can properly socialize them on the very first day. Music, drama, chess, whatever your kids like, just enroll them.
Toddlers love the adventure. They do not understand much, so moving is kind of like playing house for them. Sure, they will miss family and old habits, but younger children who grow up expat have a better chance of growing into more confident, more open-minded and worldly people.
Benefits of Expat Life for Children
Research shows that living in a foreign country gives your child empathy for other cultures and an appreciation for diversity, with a heightened awareness of our world. Expact children learn an additional language, maybe even two, which gives them an advantage in their future careers.
Include them in the adventure
Let your kids make their own adventure. Start at home: ask them to mark the moving boxes, enroll them in a language course, show them maps and photos, include them in conversations, and make them feel like equals.
It is also helpful to keep some old habits when you finally move. It is a fresh start, yet in order to make your child feel at ease, you can make their room exactly the same or you can keep rituals you had at home… Saturdays are for going to the park, Sunday nights are family movie time, etc.
Going Back Is Not an Option
If your children are having difficulties adjusting, you will be tempted to go back. This is one of the trickiest parts of your new life. Let’s look at the scenario: You caved and went home. Your children’s friends, family, would have all continued their lives.
Life goes on and that concept is not familiar to children. So, according to many studies, your children will end up feeling like they belong nowhere. They failed you, they failed your new family home.
Instead of even giving this thought a try, encourage your children to follow their passions, explore local life, while making sure they are in touch with their relatives at home.
You Are Not Alone
Remember, you are not the first family to move with children. You can always ask for help online, but every child is different and there is no formula for success.
You just have to trust your children and don’t doubt that you made a good decision. After all, it is not a decision you made over night, it is decision made not just for you, it is an experience for the whole family.
Finally, you need to remember one crucial thing: kids adapt far better and faster than adults. The difference is that some might experience it in a more dramatic way, but it will be worth fighting for.