For expat parents, this is such a huge topic. Is our lifestyle of moving often going to damage our children? What are the risks to their emotional and psychological health? Is it going to affect their academic success? The questions go on and on, and if you are anything like me, they are often associated with a lot of parental guilt.
As with many things parenting related, the answer to these questions is not straightforward. There is a growing body of research that suggests that multiple moves during childhood can negatively affect children and families. However, the key word here is CAN! This word should fill you with hope and ease some of that parental guilt you experience when you think about this topic. There really is a lot we can do as parents to mitigate the potential negative risks of a transient lifestyle on children and instead build resilience and character traits that will actually help them weather the storms of life.
Be aware of the risks
The first thing we need to do as parents is to actively educate ourselves about the potential risks. Sometimes this can feel scary, and it feels more comfortable to stick our head in the sand and hope everything will work out ok. Unfortunately, both based on personal and professional experience this approach often results in the opposite of what we hope for. By understanding what the risks are and how multiple moves might affect our children, we are then armed with knowledge that will be critical to us then navigating this journey with our children.
You might be asking; well, how do I even find out about what the risks are? A great place to start is to read a book. There are a number of really easily accessible books on the topic. Here are a few suggestions:
Raising Up A Generation of Third Culture Kids: A Practical Guide To Preventative Care by Lauren Wells
Third Culture Kids:Growing Up Among Worlds by Ruth E. Van Reken, Michael V. Pollock and David C. Pollock
Misunderstood: The Impact Of Growing Up Overseas In The 21st century by Tanya Crossman
As well as informing on the risks and potential pitfalls for globally mobile families these books also then go on to help you think through the next step of how to approach family life in a way that appreciates what our children are going through and builds resilience.
The Next Step
Some really important dimensions to consider as we move from understanding the risks to how to approach out global lifestyle in practical terms are:
We need to be proactive in our approach, both in terms of gaining knowledge on the topic and in terms of implementing strategies to support our children;
It’s critical that we both acknowledge and also help our children process the grief that they will feel;
We must create an emotionally safe space where our children can express their feelings;
Seeing your children as active contributors who need to be heard can change the whole dynamic of a move;
Research suggests that as parents we need to be conscious about creating positive childhood experiences;
Ensuring that we leave our current home well means that there is a greater chance that we will also arrive in our next location well; and
We must remember that preparation is key.
There is so much more to say on each of these points and on the topic in general. However, the takeaway messages are that yes there is the potential for a highly global lifestyle to be detrimental to our children, but there is so much we can do as parents to prevent this and support our children to build resilience instead. The first step needs to be understanding the risks and then we need to proactively mitigate them. If you would like help in navigating this or needs some guidance in finding the approach that is right for your family, I have you covered. You can book in and see me 1:1 or you can attend my Globally Mobile Families workshop. With either option I will walk you through the research and theory and help you plan your unique strategy to build resilience in your globally mobile children.