Family & Relationships
Children aren’t as reserved as adults and overcome differences with greater ease.
As you probably know by now, moving with children to a foreign country requires a lot more than merely involving them in the moving process. Upon arrival, you will have to find new ways of helping your expat children adjust to the new environment. After all everything in your host country may look or even smell different, not to mention the fact that people talk “funny”!
While your whole family has lived an ordinary life so far, you may now stick out like a sore thumb. Your language, nationality and maybe the color of your skin will set you apart from the locals. This is not necessarily a bad thing for your kids. Expat children are a lot less reserved than adults and overcome differences with greater ease. Other children may be curious about your expat kid because of all the things which distinguish them as expat children, not in spite of it.
Learning the Language
Children pick up foreign languages easily. You can, however, still help your expat children learn the language of your host country by teaching them a few words and phrases in the new language. It is always a good idea to begin early with this, ideally before the move. Once your expat children arrive, it will be easier for them to learn the new language.
However, keep in mind that learning a language becomes harder for expat children the older they get. If your little ones are not so little anymore, they will have to be prepared for a higher academic standard at school and need to be advanced speakers of the local language. It may be necessary for your expat children to take a language class or receive private lessons in order to be sufficiently prepared – or to attend an international school catering to expat children.
For some kids, it is quite easy to make new friends. Others struggle to get in touch with children their own age. You can help your expat children by getting in touch with other families in your new neighborhood. Your HR department or people from your expat community may be able to help you with that.
Organize play-dates, join play groups or even have a welcome party and invite your new neighbors over. Remember that in some countries it is easier to get in touch with locals than in others. But if you don’t give up, sooner or later you will make yourself at home in your new neighborhood and expat children won’t feel so foreign anymore.
Keeping in Touch with Home
It is important for your expat children not to lose touch with people at home. You should help your children contact family members and friends frequently. Set up an Internet connection and let your expat children use online messengers, webcams and programs such as Skype*.
Also try to encourage your family and friends to visit you abroad. Your expat children will then see that these people have not completely disappeared but are in fact still a big part of their lives. Try to take a vacation once a year to visit your home country, too. A year can be a very long time for expat children. A visit to their home country and seeing the people they love can have a very comforting effect on expat children.