There are a fair few challenges to overcome when moving abroad and convincing others it’s a good idea can be quite an emotional process. This has never been truer when it comes to getting your teenagers to accept this change.
Whilst younger children may initially object to the news, they usually don’t take long to come around to the idea. However, a teenager is essentially transitioning into a new phase of life – from childhood to adulthood. Hormones are completely imbalanced, and their mind and body are physically changing. This of course impacts their moods, emotions and overall behaviour – from outbursts to introversion. However, exactly how these changes affect your child will vary and you may find the news is embraced with positivity. It all really depends on the unique set of circumstances – the specific country, culture, language, age, personality, family dynamic, previous experiences. These all make a difference to how a child will react.
Therefore, as parents to teenage children, all you can really do is try to understand and appreciate any emotional reactions they present.
So, whether you are preparing to break the news to your teen, you have already done so or you’re still toying with the decision to even move, here are some areas to consider which may help your teenagers come around to the idea of moving abroad.
Shifting your perspective will help you to see the situation through the eyes of a teenager. Once we do this, it can be a lot easier to understand any negative reactions.
Compared to younger children, a teenager’s identity is already established and is closely linked to their social connections and activities. This results in strong attachments to their current surroundings. With so many changes already happening inside them, the addition of a significant lifestyle change and threat of upheaval to their external environment can be enough to trigger strong opposition.
Let’s be honest, moving overseas is a huge change and is a massive leap outside most people’s comfort zone, away from everything that is familiar. As such, if your teen is relatively happy, they’re more likely to focus on what they would be giving up rather than what they might gain from this change.
Children typically find out about moving overseas once the decision has already been made and this may be where some of the ‘problem behaviours’ stem from. When kids have an opportunity to be involved in the decision-making process, you are providing an opportunity to find out how they feel about the possibility before it has become a reality.
In doing so, conversations can occur which will make them feel included, knowing their concerns have been heard and ultimately feel a part of the decision. Otherwise, the situation will be perceived as being completely forced upon them.
Fully explain the situation and be sure to cover each aspect in detail – the reason for moving, the choice of country, what will change, what will stay the same.
If you do meet instant confrontation and resistance, it can be a good idea to take a breath rather than react. Let them express the emotions they need to and give them some space. Once your child has calmed down, ask if they are ready to discuss things further and be open to listening to them. Let them express what they’re feeling.
When concerns are raised – such as the impact the change will have or perhaps what they might miss out on – focus on highlighting the elements that will be staying the same – for example, your family unit. After all, you’re all in this together.
Moreover, the thought of moving abroad is likely to be scary for everyone, so open up about your own fears and uncertainty and how you can all support each other.
Aim towards unity, collaboration, compassion and understanding and avoid actions that will create separation and negative emotions.
For your child to be fully on board, support will need to be ongoing throughout the transition. Find out what would make the situation more manageable for your teenager. Setting up a skype account? Arranging a fun leaving party? Inviting their best friend to visit? Doing an activity they’ve always wanted to try?
Be a source of reassurance and continue to encourage them and their ability to adapt, make new friends and embrace exciting opportunities.
Ultimately, try to be flexible and where possible, adapt the situation so that it can be an easier transition. Go at their pace and take a gradual approach. Too much information at once could be overwhelming and undo some of the progress you’ve already made.
As a parent, you may question if you’re doing the right thing and how this will affect your child in the long term. Rest assured the experience of living overseas and dealing with such a big change, are all potentials for building strength of character and resilience later in life.
Expat children are often much better at handling change because of this early life experience and in a rapidly changing world, this can only be a positive thing.