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Jan 15, 2009
Expatriates and their Growing Children
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When people decide to work and live abroad, it may seem like they are only making the decision for themselves. But in truth, most expats make the decision with their family’s welfare in mind. This is especially true for expats who bring their children along with them when they move. They will not be the only ones who have to adapt to a foreign country and to a new culture – their kids and spouses will have to do the same. Even expats who do not have children will still have to consider how their future kids would adapt.


Problems faced by Expat Children


Children of Expatriates often find themselves in an environment where their peers consider them strange because of their ethnicity. Kids who have already established friendships back home may find making new friends difficult –these kids may experience a certain degree of depression and homesickness. Other than cultural and social difficulties, kids may also have a problem with a new educational system. A lot of expatriate kids do poorly in their first year of school in a new country. They may even have to be held back a year or two. The environment is also a problem, adapting to cooler or hotter weather may be hard on kids.


Communication is Key


It is important to remember that adults and children adapt to their environment differently. Adults may find adapting cultural and ethnic easier than kids do. Adults more mature and are able to understand the origin of cultural and ethnic difference –kids may find it harder to do so.


Parents sometimes forget that kids aren’t mini adults – they’re kids. They have different emotional responses and needs. That is why it is very important for an Expat parent to pay close attention to how their kids are adapting. Little upsets should not be taken for granted. Lines of communication between a parent and child should always be open. If a child or a teen comes home with bullying problems – the parent must always investigate further to make sure that the problem does not stem from racial and ethnic issues.


Expatriate parents should also remember that a child’s experiences could greatly affect the way they develop. Issues must be resolved properly. Racial and ethnical problems may be difficult to avoid. That is why expat parents should talk to their kids constantly and help them adjust to their environment better.


Give Kids Enough Time to Adjust


Explaining the move and the reason for moving to kids is very important. Parents should not spring the decision to move unexpectedly. Doing so can be very traumatizing and kids may end up acting out or repressing their emotions. Expats must take things slow – they should introduce the idea over an extended period. The kids should be allowed to say goodbye to friends and peers. They have to be given enough time to acclimate and adjust to their new environment – that includes school, weather, language, etc.


Things Do Work Out


In the end, things do work out. A lot of expatriate kids have grown up to become well adjusted adults. It’s not all gloom and doom. With the right amount of parent-child communication , kids do end up adjusting to their environment well. Some kids take to their new environment much faster than others do. As things progress expat kids (even those with a shaky start) do establish meaningful peer relationships that help them better.

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