Thursday, February 23rd, 2012
Raising kids abroad can be a challenging task, and it is always important to consider the specific benefits and drawbacks of moving abroad with your children. How well your children can adapt will depend on the extent of cultural differences, their age and how their parents themselves feel about living abroad.
Most expat families, however, say that the move abroad has overall benefited their children. In this article, we have collected some important points you should certainly be aware of before deciding to raise your kids in a different culture.
1. Your Child's Age Matters a Lot
Expat parents agree that the child's age matters a lot when it comes to cultural integration in the destination country. If your child is a few months or even a few years old, he has not yet had the chance to fully understand the culture and customs in your home country. While growing up, your child will eventually feel more at home in the host culture and it will be the expat parent's task to get him to know more about his original cultural background.
If you move abroad when your child has already started school, integration in the new country will be more difficult and your child will be acutely aware of the two different cultures he is familiar with. It will be the parents' task to help him deal with these differences.
If your children are in their late teens by the time you move abroad, they will already have a relatively firm cultural identity, and this will probably make it easier for them to deal with the new culture.
2. Your Kids Will Gain A Broader Awareness of the World
By experiencing at least two different cultures, meeting more people from different nations and potentially speaking two or more languages, your children will gain a better awareness of the world. The fact that your children are not only familiar with their local neighbourhood but with more countries will help them learn more about themselves and the world.
3. Lack of Stable Cultural Background
Living in a different culture from the one they were used to in your home country, your children may occasionally feel rootless and unsure of their cultural identity. They will probably be separated from the broader family, like grandparents, aunts and uncles for long stretches of time, and from the home environment where they spent the first part of their lives. Living in a different culture, it is natural that your kids will feel rootless and isolated from time to time. It is thus important to provide them with a stable background at home, to give them emotional stability and to help them to understand and appreciate the cultural differences. Separation from family and friends is inevitable to some extent, but you can encourage your children to spend some holiday time with their grandparents and other relatives from your home country once they are older.
4. Your children will probably learn a new language
If you are moving to a non-English speaking country and enrol your children in a local school, they will learn the country's language, which will broaden their mind and gives them better educational choices and employment opportunities. Before moving abroad, it might be useful to teach your children the basics of the new language, as it will help them integrate better. If your children are only a few years old, you'll be surprised at how fast they pick up the new language, and if they learn early enough, they'll even be able to speak perfectly, without any noticeable accent.
5. Increased Adaptability & Self-Confidence
By socialising with people from different cultures and getting used to a new environment, your children will learn that adaptability and the appreciation of differences in other people are important qualities. This inter-cultural awareness and tolerance also gives them better chances of succeeding in their studies and career. Self-confidence will come from the experience of navigating in different countries and cultural settings.
Overall, raising kids abroad is a very rewarding experience and despite some difficulties your kids may experience while understanding different cultures and building up their own cultural identity, there are lots of rewards that come from being raised abroad.