What I have learnt as an expat child and then expat parent
Children are like sponges, they absorb information and can adapt so easily to their environment."
Phrases like this are often bandied about but it isn't always smooth sailing for expat children and even their parents when it comes to moving and settling abroad. While there are certainly benefits to seeking a life abroad, the experience of disruption can feel painful for expat families.
I am no stranger to the hurdles of growing up as an expat. As a child hopping from country to country and a parent of two children now, I know that expat life can pose a particular challenge for families. Relationships pose the most significant challenge, whether that's missing family, making new friends or understanding enough of the local language to communicate. Settling into life abroad comes with special challenges for older children who find settling into a new school particularly difficult.
Parents, meanwhile, have the added weight of responsibility and the overall cost of raising a family is often more expensive for expats. So what can parents do to help themselves and their children to settle in? Kate Berger, a child and adolescent psychologist believes that parents must instil a 'growth mindset', which will allow children to make their own mistakes, so they can learn how to react to adversity. It is also important to lead by example and show your children how you react when struggling to learn the local language or pick up new skills.
Kate also emphasizes the importance of spending time together as a family. Growing up as an expat child myself, this really resonates with my upbringing. Even though we have all lived in different parts of the world, I remain very close with my brother and sister, partly because of the experiences we shared moving around as children. This appears to be a common experience for other expats too.
While expat life can be difficult, we shouldn't lose sight of how it can be beneficial for children. Many say that their children's health, wellbeing and quality of life has improved as a result of moving abroad. Even more importantly, there is a world of possible destinations out there for families. Whether you value the best schools, an outdoor lifestyle or just want to make your money go a little further, expat life can help parents to and children to achieve their goals. Speaking from experience, expat life can shape the people you and your children become.