Bringing up Expat Children
Whether you’re moving abroad to fulfill a lifelong dream or accepting a career change or work contract, the chances are you’re excited by your impending change in circumstances; who wouldn’t be thrilled at the opportunity to live in a new country, and experience a whole host of cultural, and culinary delights?
If you’re a parent, your move is no doubt a little more complicated – particularly if your children are old enough to voice their fears, concerns, and objections against leaving friends, family, and familiarity. Heaven knows that raising happy, curious, and healthy children is often difficult enough at times as it is.
From language barriers and cultural differences to the aching loneliness that many expat children feel at the point of leaving home, making a move abroad can be daunting for families with children of all ages. However, it need not be – particularly if you’ve given careful thought to the practicalities involved with moving. Children learn by example, and so it’s up to you, as a parent to lead the way towards your exciting new home and lifestyle. Your adventure is what you choose it to be.
Involving your child in every step of the move
As you ready yourselves for moving day, there’s a chance that your child feels entirely overwhelmed and overlooked. Children love to feel included in big decisions, so be sure to explain everything that’s going on as and when it occurs. Your child would probably be happy to choose what you eat on that first evening, or dictate the color of their new bedroom; that involvement, however small, will ensure your child feels important – and valued.
Considering your child’s education
The school that your child attends will play a huge part in how he or she adapts to expat lifestyle, although your options might appear daunting at first. While a state school will provide plenty of opportunities to learn a new language and to embrace the local culture, an international school will introduce your child to peers that understand his or her concerns and circumstances – as well as a wealth of engaging subjects and extracurricular activities. The Stamford American Singapore international school is an example of such an establishment, following a dedicated curriculum that will be familiar, and engaging to your child.
Maintaining links with your family and friends at home
You’ll no doubt miss your friends and family when you move overseas. However, some children will find that wrench unbearable; those people and places are all he or she has ever known, after all. It’s important to try and maintain a link with friends and family back home, whether you create a memory box, make regular contact via Skype or social media, or invite them out to stay. Let your child know that your friends and family members are still a huge part of his or her life and that he or she is welcome to talk to, and about them at any time.
Encouraging your child to get involved
As we’ve said, children learn by example. That has never been truer of an expat child than when it comes to being involved with your new community; if you’d like to encourage your child to take part in activities and engage with expat families, take the time to seek them out via community groups and social media. Existing expat families will come as a huge source f inspiration and advice, as well as becoming firm and fast friends for you and your children.
It’s a simple, but important tip; if you’d like your child to feel more at home with your move abroad you must be prepared to listen to his or her concerns, regardless of how silly, or unfounded they might appear. Let your child know that you’re always available to talk, as and when he or she wishes to communicate. Your reassuring presence is likely to calm your child’s fears and enable him or her to come around to changes in circumstances.
Sure, there are some amazing positives to be found during every stage of emigration, but your child is likely to be looking for all of the negatives; the circumstances that might prevent your move, and their loss of identity or familiarity. It’s time to be patient and to reassure your child that their adventure is only just beginning. Raising expat children is likely to be the most challenging, but rewarding parenting experience you’re every likely to encounter; embrace every second.