For lawyers working overseas in an Asian country, raising an expatriate family could be difficult. Though traveling might provide a wealth of job opportunities, sometimes it might be quite hard on the uprooted child who must readjust to a completely new social setting. Whether it is culture shock or homesickness, a child can be truly affected by the experience. However, on the flip side of that, being an expat child also provides a chance to earn unique experiences that promotes growth and maturity.
As mentioned in previous articles, in terms of education, sending your child to an international school is the optimal choice. Not only is the curriculum compatible with western schools, their credits are transferrable internationally. When applying to western universities, this saves the student a lot of time and effort. The same cannot be said for local students, who must take the TOEFL and meet other requirements. More importantly, however, international schools allow the smoothest transition for the expat. First of all, for non-bilingual students, language will not be an issue in a Western curriculum, since these schools import their textbooks and hire certified teachers from the Americas and Europe. Also, in an international school, expats are not required to adapt to local rearing customs such as wearing a school uniform or singing the national anthem. Instead, he or she can still have the “standard” Western high school life, complete with prom and commencement ceremonies.
To ease the initial culture shock, parents should try to replicate life back home during the first few years. Small gestures, such as buying imported drinks or watching shows on satellite TV, will do wonders in curbing the sense of homesickness and helplessness that a child can feel. Stick to routines by going to the mall or the movies to give the expat some sense of balance. Never treat the move as an “extended vacation” and pressure the child to try new things. This will only deepen the culture shock and a longing for home.
A great way to remedy homesickness is through friends. Naturally, an expat will most likely socialize with other expats, but that greatly limits the child’s social circles and creates a sense of dependency. Therefore, parents should definitely urge them to make local friends. One of the most common issues expats face is sense of distance towards the natives, but in Asia, hospitality is highly valued so the locals are typically very friendly. Parents should, therefore, encourage their kids to interact with locals, as these relationships will make it much easier to adjust to the social setting
When the expat is somewhat adjusted, parents should also encourage their kids to experience the new cultural setting as much as possible. These unique experiences promote a worldly view and growth that will definitely separate the expat from the crowd when applying to colleges or jobs. Encourage the child to take lessons on the local language and attend cultural events. Stick to routines, but try new foods and meet new people. Perhaps it is best to keep in mind that while parents might benefit from moving overseas, most of the time, the expat child will as well.
Zara Mohidin January 19th, 2016