When thinking about a relocation decision, nothing can be more emotive than the thought of the impact of expatriation on the children. It can be all too easy to be drawn to the challenges and potential negatives of moving your children abroad. What if they are not happy, and at the extreme what if the experience damages them forever?
And of course we’d be lying to say that there are no risks or challenges involved in relocation, but it's important to think about these within the context of a balanced overview of both the challenges and the benefits. Ask many expat parents and they will say that they have no doubt that their children’s experiences are shaping them as individuals. Here are five of the traits that they suggest their children acquire which positively influence the way they contribute to the world as adults
1. They have a broad worldview. Having lived in different countries, they understand the nuances of varied cultures and are able to view life from different perspectives. For example their understanding of issues such as poverty in the developing world may be less abstract because they have seen it first hand. They perhaps develop a more expansive interest in world events. Although that can often come with the cost of a lack of political and historical knowledge related to their “home” country.
2. They are adaptable. Children who have travelled all over the world learn to be comfortable in a wide variety of situations; they make new friends easily and pick up with old friends in minutes (even when they haven’t seen each other in years). They quickly become comfortable in new surroundings and work out solutions when they are not sure how to deal with new challenges.
3. They build personal resilience. They are supported by family, friends, and their school environments to learn to use their internal emotional resources to navigate the trials of moving, making new friends and adapting to new schools. They have learned ways of accommodating change, disruption and adversity that they can apply throughout their lives in a world that is constantly changing.
4. They are confident. They are used to new situations so they are confident in dealing with new circumstances. It doesn’t mean that they necessarily find it easy, but they have strategies to deal with those first “new” moments.
5. They don’t see differences. Often children go to a school whose student body comprises anywhere from 60 to 70 nationalities in a given year. Everyone is different, so no one is different. The children who have led more internationally mobile lives tend to look for the things that give them common bonds and they ignore differences.
Of course, it’s not all roses, there are challenges and you can read about those in this article, Expatriate Kids: Four Challenges of Expat Life for Expat Kids . Remember as you make your relocation decision to keep a balanced view of the benefits and challenges and plan to provide appropriate support where necessary.
To help you with this there are several excellent books that will help you.
“Third Culture Kids; The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds” David C. Pollock and Ruth E. van Reken
“Raising Global Nomads; Parenting Abroad in an On-Demand World” Robin Pascoe
“Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child; practical storytelling techniques that will “strengthen the global family” Julia Simens
“Unrooted Childhoods; Memoirs of Growing Up Global” Faith Eidsel and Nina Sichel
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