Monday, 12 May 2014

How to help your kids settle in and enjoy life abroad

If you’re a parent, imagine the prospect of moving abroad and starting life overseas through your kid’s eyes and the types of questions running through their mind...

How will I grasp the new language, culture, food and weather? What if I'm not being able to make new friends or get to grips with a completely new school syllabus. Will my old friends forget about me? Will we ever go back to our old home town...?


If you are an expat kid in New Zealand the answer is simple, thrive! Moving to a different country can be as stressful for kids as it is for parents, but it can also be an opportunity to grow. Two fifths of the New Zealand expat parents who answered our 2013 Expat Explorer survey noted that their children had become more outgoing since making the move and almost half felt that they were also more rounded individuals as a result.

Perhaps it shouldn’t come as such a surprise that the home of the Rugby World Cup champions would help to bring expat kids out of their comfort zone. With one of the most beautiful, cinematic landscapes on the planet, a history of sporting excellence and unique mix of western and Maori culture, New Zealand is a fantastic place for expat children to develop.


These results aren’t reserved for New Zealand, over 70% of expat parents in the Cayman Islands, Canada, Australia and South Africa all felt the move improved their children’s quality of life. For expat children looking to pick up their local language, Belgium and Germany are great choices and they also top our table for all round wellbeing.

Wherever you choose to move it is an opportunity for your children to develop. On average a third of expat parents say the experience of living abroad helped to make their children more confident and better rounded individuals. But as a parent what can you do to make the transition as easy as possible? Here are our three top tips:

1. Teach the lingo

The biggest challenge for adult expats is often much easier for young ones who seem to pick up two languages as quickly as they learn one. For young adolescents not speaking the local language can be a barrier to making friends. It’s always best to get the ball rolling at home, you are unlikely to be thanked for the tutelage, but a handful of local phrases might just be enough to help your children get their new life off to the right start.

2. Lead by example

If you want your children to get stuck into expat life you need to show them the way. Throwing your children into every sports club and social event you can find is a good policy but if you want them to embrace the experience it’s up to Mum or Dad to lead by example.

3. Let them be themselves

Identity is a difficult topic for any child growing up, but thrust into a foreign culture with new friends, kids can get stuck between two worlds. For all the importance of letting your children explore their new home remember to find time to enjoy TV, film and music from home. The internet makes keeping in touch with friends much easier and seeing Gran and Granddad every once in a while do the world of good.

If you’ve made the move abroad, we want to hear from you! The 2014 Expat Explorer survey is now open! Take 15 minutes to help fellow expats by letting us know your views on life abroad and spread the word to expat family and friends by sharing the link here and using the hashtag #EESurvey14.

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