Preparing for an expatriation is often an exciting and stressful exercise for the worker and children. But this new life is also, very often, the one of a whole family that has to be prepared for the departure and the changes.
If this decision is often shared as a couple, it is essential not to forget to discuss about it with the children in order to explain the reasons for the future departure abroad and to reassure them about this new adventure.
Announce the departure to your children
This is a stage that is sometimes emotionally difficult for parents to manage. The announcement of expatriation to your children is however crucial to prepare them for this new life.
Whether it is done during the dinner, at family reunions, or face to face with each of the children, the tone used must be clear and precise. Expatriation is a serious departure which needs to be assimilated by all the children to avoid misunderstandings and doubts.
At 7, 13 and 18 years old, it is believed that children are particularly sensitive to family upheaval. It is therefore necessary to adapt the discourse to each age, from toddlers to teenagers, to facilitate dialogue and leave in a good state of mind. After all, this stage is just as stressful for children as it is for parents…
For young children
The youngest children are sensitive to changes in their environment and the family sphere they are familiar with. At this age, children need a lot of affection and reassurance that their family will be preserved.
Settling in a foreign country therefore needs to be well explained while paying close attention to their reactions. For 3-7 year olds, there are even books dedicated to expatriation to be told during evening stories, special moments with your children.
From the age of 7 onwards, explaining a relocation to your children becomes a little more difficult as they are in their period of socialisation and discovery of the world. Thus, the loss of their first friends, their teacher and the change of environment will make them very afraid.
Talking to them about their new school, the country and its cultural richness will help them understand the positive aspects of expatriation.
Depending on the child’s distress, an exchange with a psychologist can be beneficial to prepare them for this change of life.
For teenagers, the transformation of the body and mood swings do not make it easy to announce departure. This uncertainty about their future is even stronger as expatriation will push them to rebuild their community of friends and find their feet in their new life.
In high school, the question of continuing their studies will arise. Anticipating the student life of teenagers is therefore essential in order to make the right decisions. Discussing with them to choose the right schools is necessary so as not to prevent them from building their future.
If the country of expatriation does not offer the training envisaged, it can be reassuring to entrust adolescents to family members for the duration of their studies. That way, everyone will be serene!
Be realistic and tell the truth
In any case, it is necessary not to lie to the children and to be realistic about their future new life. Talking about the positive aspects (the weather, beaches or exotic animals…) will help them to get over the pill but we must not forget to talk to them about everyday life to avoid disillusionment (the new school, poverty in the country, parents’ working hours…).
Announcing one’s departure abroad as early as possible is still the best solution to avoid giving too much information at a time when the children are not prepared for it.
The choice of school: an important step for the integration of children
Choosing where to send children to school abroad is a difficult but challenging step for their successful integration.
While some parents choose to attend school at home, particularly when one of the parents is not working, the choice of distance education does not always facilitate integration in the host country. Building the social circle is an important step in children’s lives and school can help them a lot.
Several choices are then available for parents. Local schools and International schools.
Depending on the host country, local schools can be an excellent solution to facilitate the integration of children, particularly through the learning of the local language and culture.
However, if the children have no connection with the country (in particular the language of one of the parents), it is not possible to enrol them in a school environment that they will not understand. Similarly, the quality of teaching and French equivalence will not be guaranteed.
Enrolling your children in a local school is therefore a great opportunity to develop the children’s open-mindedness and to discover another teaching model. It is simply a matter of making sure that their good integration is possible.
The International School
A lot of countries offer the possibility to school your children in an International School. This could be the opportunity for the kids to be surrounded by children in the same situation than theirs. However, the English language might be the major language in those schools, and children will need to adapt.
Some schools, recognised by the host country’s Ministry of Education, also provide bridges to integrate local schools.
Making the choice of schooling for children is difficult but many exchange groups and expatriate circles can be useful in helping parents to make their decision.
Being positive: the best way to fit in
Expatriation is an extraordinary adventure that will be made up of joys and less happy moments. But the best way to integrate well into the country is still to be positive about this experience which is not offered to everyone.
Leaving your home country, your family and friends is a difficult moment to go through but it is always possible to explain to the children that they will come back for a long holiday or at the end of the expatriation if it only lasts a few years.
Keeping time for your children is essential in order to explore the new country and make some discoveries together. It is also important to maintain some family habits such as family meals and outings to avoid disturbing the children’s bearings.
Furthermore, if you have the chance to make a trip to the future host country beforehand, among other things, this would allow them to discover the culture, the future home, the school, the climate… and to picture themselves in this new life more easily.
Don’t worry! While this article raises the most difficult aspects of preparing children for expatriation and integration, a study by Expat Communication states that children are the big winners of expatriation.
Indeed, 98% of expatriates believe that their children would have integrated well abroad and 87% note a greater openness of mind.
A well-prepared child will therefore find it easier to integrate. And of course, take care of your children’s health !