Expat /Immigrant Parenting 101

Written by the Gowhee Team

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Mother holding her baby boy smilling. They are standing in front of the eiffel tower. The title on the picture says: Parenting as an expat, benefits, challenges and solutions.

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Being an expat family simultaneously presents many benefits and challenges. Having a community is key and there are many ways to build one. Raising a child abroad can ultimately be a very rewarding experience as long as you utilize all the tools at your disposal.
 

Benefits

Benefits include immersing your children in a new culture and language, broadening their educational and career horizons, and instilling an appreciation of one’s own family roots and cultural heritage. Exposing your child to a different way of life, including being immersed in another culture and language for a long period of time, will instantly broaden your child’s worldview. It teaches them acceptance of differences as well as the appreciation of family roots and heritage. 

It helps with “the grass is greener on the other side” syndrome. After living abroad, one can see more clearly that there are pros and cons to both life in their home country and life in their new country. Living abroad can open your eyes to the fact that there isn’t only one way of living, and that one is not necessarily better than the other, only different.

Boy looking at a castle with excitement.

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Challenges

Challenges for you as parents can include a lack of nearby family support (especially when it comes to childcare), the need to learn a new language and culture, and getting used to parenting in a foreign environment where local parenting customs may seem strange to you. Navigating life’s everyday challenges with the added stress of a language barrier, foreign parenting customs, and a foreign environment can be quite difficult to overcome. But certainly not impossible.
 

Raising a Bilingual Child

One of the first steps you and your children will take is learning the language of your new community. Sending your children to local schools in the community will allow them to learn the language and immerse themselves in the local culture. Bilingualism has been proven in a number of studies to boost brain power and academic skills and bilingual children tend to score higher in testing than their counterparts who speak only one language.

Your children will even be able to help you with learning the language as they become helpful interpreters for you. It’s a great bonding experience for you and your child. Their adaptability will also aid them in acclimating to new environments, such as when starting a new job in their future. Finally, their bilingualism and biculturalism grants them a greater diversity in career choices.

Creating a Community is Essential

To reap these benefits and help you overcome the challenges of acclimating to life in a foreign country, creating a community for yourself and your children is essential. A network of friends, which can include other expat families, can help you cope with homesickness and the lack of nearby family support. They can provide the support and connection you need both as an individual and as a parent to help solidify your roots in your new home. There are a number of good ways to help you find your community, including searching for local expat groups on Facebook, joining a local mommy-and-me group, checking with a nearby military base for an expat community and contacting your home country’s embassy for the many often overlooked resources they provide. 

Try to create a community of both fellow expats AND families from your new country. Fellow expats can help you cope with homesickness by being able to commiserate with them over missing family back home and discussing similar frustrations you may feel about adapting to life abroad. This is a valuable connection to have for obvious reasons. But also having a connection to families from your new country is helpful because they can offer help in figuring out or clarifying things you might need to know that only a local might understand. They can help you adapt sometimes even faster by showing you how things work in your new country.

You can do it!

The challenges of expat family life can seem daunting at times, but as you get established and integrate into your new community, you will find help and resources so that both you and your children can not only succeed, but thrive, as an expat family living overseas.

In short, there are many tools available to help you and your children successfully transition into your new life as an expat family. Hopefully you can see that the benefits often outweigh the challenges as long as you take a little care of yourself and reach out to find your resources. Ultimately, community is key as well as not being afraid to dive into a culture that is not your own. Be brave and don’t give up. A life abroad can truly be a beautiful and worthwhile experience for you and your family. Showing your kids how to overcome the struggles you face while embracing a different culture is a gift unlike any other you can give to your children. 

 

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