Helping expat children settle



Much emphasis has been put upon the difficulties of adapting to other cultures and dealing with culture shock when you move abroad as an expatriate. However, an aspect of this that perhaps does not get explored as much as it should is the similar effect such moves can have on your children.

Expat children will encounter the same benefits as you with regards to experiencing new cultures, in truth, it could be even more rewarding as studies have shown that expat children develop greater skills from moving abroad and experiencing new ways of life. Doing so at an early age often instils a greater sense of perspective and awareness.

However it won’t be all fun times and rewarding experiences, children will be just as disorientated by a new environment as adults. To ensure that your children do have a rewarding experience abroad, it’s important to recognise what may affect them.

Virtually everybody will be at least a little bit unsettled when thrust into a new country, and for a child this could be even greater. Children may struggle to make new friends, if you are very busy they may feel neglected, and also they may not truly understand why it is that they’ve had to leave their friends, their previous school and their home behind.

Communication and language will also have an effect on children. Children will find it hard to adjust if the people in their new home are speaking a different language, one of the most important things will be to have the child learn the new language.

To combat these unwanted effects it’s important to maintain a strong level of communication with your child, even if you’re very busy with all the aspects of your move. Remember, children will often manifest their concerns through behaviour changes instead of conversation, so monitor your child well and look out for warning signs such as an unusually withdrawn or misbehaving child. Often children are not vocal with their problems but even a slight acknowledgment from parents can give them a reassuring push in the right direction.

Interacting with other children is of great importance, so aside from school see if you can arrange for your child to meet other children, perhaps the offspring of work colleagues and friends. You should also try to maintain a good level of communication with friends and loved ones of your children back home, regularly at least until you are sure they have settled.

As mentioned, expatriate children often grow up to become very well-rounded and skilled adults. As the world itself becomes more multicultural so does the workplace, and people with international experience and knowledge of different languages are highly regarded in the modern employment market, especially for high powered international roles. Ultimately, becoming an expat at an early age will no doubt put them in good stead for a rich and prosperous life.