Discovering a new life, culture, and language is very exciting for a family. The benefits for the children are undeniable. But leaving home and encountering all that is unfamiliar can also be challenging for the whole family. How do we create a sense of stability and learn to feel at home in a foreign country?
Expat children, rootless or belonging everywhere?
In order to adjust while living abroad, several challenges must be overcome. Learning the language is perhaps the most important. Speaking the language is necessary not only to function on a practical level but also to integrate socially. For children, being able to communicate with their peers is essential for them to feel included. Children need to cultivate a sense of belonging wherever they are.
Young children are often able to pick up languages easily. For a teenager, the process may be a bit more difficult and extra help is sometimes required. There are unique challenges and benefits for children living abroad, you can read more on this topic here.
Tips to make expat life easier for children
- Enroll them in language courses. This should happen as soon as you know you will be living abroad. The earlier they start learning a new language, the less of an arduous process it will be for them.
- Learn about the new culture together. Explore the history of the land and different styles of architecture. Get excited about trying the local cuisine.
- Allow your child to choose the types of extracurricular activities they will participate in. The more involved your child is, the more they will embrace the experience
- Create social opportunities. If possible, reach out and connect with others from your home country as well. This may help your children feel less isolated in the beginning.
- Embrace your new life while keeping old habits. Bring along your favorite books. If you have a habit of reading together before bed at home continue to do this while abroad. Find and cook the same favorite foods you enjoyed at home. Maintaining comfortable and familiar feelings in your new home will help create a sense of stability for your children.
Find help if you are struggling
If you or any member of your family is struggling to adjust while living abroad. Reach out to others. If you are working for an international company, they likely have resources and programs to help families adjust. If you are self-employed, look into finding an online counselor who can provide therapy in your own language. Living abroad is often more challenging than expected and can lead to anxiety and depression for individuals who are unsupported and are having difficulties adjusting. Many therapists provide online counseling for expats.
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