With more parents undertaking international work assignments than ever before, a growing number of children have begun to experience their childhood in a foreign atmosphere, learning to adapt to an expat life.
The implications of moving abroad are significant for children in both advantageous and disadvantageous ways. From their accent to the colour of their skin, your child may stand out in ways that they never did before. Once an active member of the classroom, they may find it harder to make a contribution. A child’s reaction to the move is highly relative to their personality traits and developmental age but this could be cumbersome to predict.
Raising culturally aware kids
In the long term, a plethora of benefits are associated with expatriation. As your child immerses themselves in foreign surroundings, they face the prospect of being bilingual and form a diverse network of friends which help foster their cultural awareness. This in turn, could be seen as a stepping stone for your child to flourish into a culturally enriched, international individual.
In order to combat the disorientation experienced by expat children, communication is key, as many children manifest their adaptation issues by engaging in reclusive behaviour.
Continuous monitoring and habitual acknowledgement of your child’s wellbeing is crucial to ensure they experience a smooth transition to their new environment.
Moving abroad strategies
Below we have listed a some strategies to help children adjust to the big move:
Children are highly susceptible to feeling more disorientated and withdrawn if their daily life changes greatly along with the move. In order to provide continuity and balance, it is highly advisable to ensure living habits and rules stay consistent during the emigration process so that your child does not become too overwhelmed and bewildered in their new surroundings.
Use relevant books and films to prepare your child
This is a useful tool to help children to confront and understand delicate situations such as moving abroad. Reading a story or showing a film that promotes change and coping strategies can be an effective aid to enable children to relate more to their own experiences. Films that depict the place you’re moving to can provide conversation points between you and your child. One such resource is Moving Planet, this book is a great way to tackle the natural concerns of a young child facing an international move.
Offer assurance and acknowledgement
Children cannot always express their feelings in an effective way, so it is vital to monitor their behaviour, be proactive and promote positivity throughout the change. Be aware that any stress you feel about the move can be easily transmitted to your child, making them feel anxious about the situation.
Promote interaction with other children
Emigrating can be seen by many children as a daunting experience so to help settle them into their new environment it is important for them to integrate with others of their own age.
Be enthusiastic and introduce your child to your neighbours children, children of your work colleagues and friends. Older children could highly benefit from joining organisations such as Girl Guides, religious youth groups or volunteering in order to broaden their interests and widen their social circles.
Have you moved abroad with kids? What advice would you give soon-to-be expat parents?