Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Bringing up your children abroad

This year’s Expat Explorer survey found Canada to be the top country overall to raise a child, while Hong Kong comes top for safety, and Australia and Canada are joint top for being the most active countries for children. Moving abroad often involves more than one person, especially those thinking about relocating with their whole family.

Here, we’ve pulled together some of our top tips for expat parents on bringing up children abroad:

1. Safety

Safety is always top on the worry-list for parents, but moving to an unfamiliar country can often turn this worry into paranoia. Talk to other parents to see what precautions they take, and bear in mind that something that seemed safe back home may not be safe in your new country – and vice versa. If you are making your children change their behaviour drastically, tell them why but make sure you don’t scare them – it will help them understand. If you’ve got very young children, take a look at this article on toy safety

2. Health
Make sure that your children have all the necessary injections before they leave. If the water isn’t safe to drink, then buy bottled water or a filter and keep your children hydrated. If you’re concerned about hygiene, buy a hand sterilising gel, and antiseptic wipes in case they fall over.

3. Emotional health  and integration
Expat children often miss home a lot. Social integration is one of the areas where expat parents in the Middle East reported their children had most difficulty, where just under half of expat parents in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE reported that the social integration of their children had become worse since relocating. Address this by talking to them throughout the moving process, encourage them to invite new friends home, send them to local language classes and encourage them to take part in activity groups.

4. Activity
Canada and Australia both score highly as a place for active families, with expat parents here reporting their children are more active in sports and playing outdoors since relocation. However, this doesn’t mean that children in other countries don’t have the opportunity to do sport. Take active weekend trips into the countryside (which will also mean you can see more of your new country), sign them up to activity classes such as swimming, dance or tennis, and consider limiting their time in front of the TV and video games.

5. Food
If the food is different in your new country, some children may take to it like a duck to water. Others, on the hand, may need some coaxing. Try adding some of the new ingredients into standard dishes and see what your children think. Alternatively, get them involved in cooking the meal and maybe they’ll get so caught up in the excitement of preparation that they’ll be more willing to try their culinary creation!

If you’re interested in finding out more great tips for expat parents, don’t forget to check out our posts on budgeting for your children abroad, overseas versus local schooling, helping your child settle in at school and the phenomenon of ‘Third Culture Kids’.

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