Every parent is afraid they are making a mistake when raising their children—abroad or domestically—and Jo Parfitt and Terry Anne Wilson are no different.
In their book, Monday Morning Emails, they often question if their decision to move their families frequently throughout their children’s childhood results in their children’s inability to cope with difficulty.
Monday Morning Emails is written by two women through the lost art of letter writing (in this case, email letters), results in heartfelt and intense revelations about their personal and family lives.
As their children head off to university and navigate the world as independent adults, both women are faced with circumstances that are compounded by long distances and frequent travel.
Jo Parfitt describes the tear she feels between needing to be supportive of her son with caring for her elderly parents.
“I have to be strong for the kids who have never lost anyone close and for my mother who hates being in charge. I’m starting to set several plates spinning. For my parents, the boys, Ian, the house-hunt, my business, and trying to re-establish a social life. Wish me luck!”
Terry Anne’s son informs her that he is joining the Canadian military and the night before he must report to basic training, she remembers how quickly the time has passed.
“When I trailed behind his golden curls as he rode round and round on his tricycle…
He takes off his ‘dog tag’ and puts it on the bedside table. I will never forget picking it up and seeing its two identical pieces—one that stays with the body, the other finds its way to the family. I caress it as if it is him, wanting to protect my son and take away any pain—now, or what the future may bring.”
Tears streamed down my face as I read this passage. Terry Anne captures so brilliantly the ache that we feel deep within our hearts when it comes to trying to protect our children, and we realize that we cannot.
A preview of the future, perhaps?
Monday Morning Emails may offer up a preview of what life may hold for many mobile families, and I couldn’t help but put myself in their shoes and weep along with them.
I found myself earmarking every other page with passages that spoke to me about the complexity of motherhood—not only motherhood on foreign soil.
A lot of my daily anxiety arises from the fear of missing out—we are missing so much extended family time in exchange for immediate family time. Is that fair? I don’t know. Will our kids someday come to resent us for the fact that they do not have close relationships with their cousins? I don’t know.
And we can’t possibly know.
Terry Anne and Jo make it clear that despite doing the best they could to provide amazing childhoods for their kids, there are still bumps in the road. There are still obstacles to overcome. It doesn’t matter how much we do as parents—there will always be something that we didn’t do because that’s the nature of life.
“Our life is composed of events and states of mind.” -Stephen Levine
One part of the book was Jo’s recount of how much she initially hated her time living in Stavanger, Norway and that she never appreciated its beauty when she lived there because she was caught up in her own head. When we are in the throes of toddlerhood tantrums, it can be difficult if not impossible, to appreciate the striking beauty of the world around you.
“To me, back then,
younger and more foolish,
my jaw was clenched against sweet sentences,
eyes narrowed into butter slits
that refused to see the light,
as a toddler’s tantrum lingers, though the ball’s now in his hands.”
Given that my own daughter’s tantrum recently lingered 30 minutes after the problem was “solved” Jo’s poem resonated with me on a visceral level.
How often do we miss the beauty in our everyday lives because of our preconceived perspectives? Are we not just overgrown toddlers who don’t realize that we are missing out on the beauty right in front of our faces?
The different phases of relocation
A few months after we moved to Stockholm, Sweden, I joined the American Women’s Club in the hopes that I would make a few like-minded friends. I was super excited to be in Sweden, and everything looked shiny and new from my newcomer’s perspective. I was on an adventure!
But the women I met at all of the social events were bitter and jaded. They had lived in Stockholm for years and had been worn down by the staunch, slightly more impersonal culture than what they were used to. I couldn’t relate to their complaints because we were in completely different head spaces.
They had no tolerance for my brazen (naive) enthusiasm, and likewise, I had no patience to listen to endless stories about how they hate grocery shopping in the metric system.
Now, having a few years tucked under my belt, I’m a much better listener, and I’m more empathetic, but at the time, I was intolerant to negative stories about my adopted home. I would tune out negative stories with my hands in my ears shouting la la, I can’t hear you in order to preserve my jubilant bubble of ignorant bliss.
I’m no longer eager to ignore the negative experiences that may happen when we choose to live this global lifestyle but instead, I enthusiastically devoured Jo and Terry Anne’s stories so that I may learn from what they experienced.
In a lot of ways, Monday Morning Emails can provide highly-mobile families a glimpse of what they may encounter in their future.
If you are relocating every few years, you will need to consider how that affects your children who will stay rooted at university or will want to build a life of their own in a country different from yours.
It is good to ask these questions now and to perform mini-thought experiments about how you will prepare your children if they want to attend university “back home” when they have never lived there themselves.
I know that our kids will have to spend a few years in the US if they want to pass on their US citizenship to their own children. We will have to have that conversation when the time is right.
Beyond the memoir
Unlike many memoirs, the book takes the personal stories a step further, and the last 81 pages contain advice and resources from psychologists, counselors, and coaches who specialize in Third Culture Kid (TCK) subject areas to provide support to families.
They have perspectives, techniques, and approaches families can implement to aid in mental health support for their TCKs and many web-based resources linked at the end for continued learning.
Without a doubt, this book provides both emotional support and practical counseling resources for the modern global family.
Be sure to read your copy of Monday Morning Emails here.
When my husband and I moved from Manhattan to Paris in 2012, we didn’t anticipate much in the way of culture shock. We were moving from one big, international city to another. No big deal, right?
Culture shock hit us hard. My husband struggled to navigate the intricacies of his workplace in a second language.
As for me, not only did I have to adjust to a new country, I suddenly was a stay-at-home wife with no friends. I spent the days à la Carrie Bradshaw, wandering the streets and looking longingly into cafes full of people gabbing over coffee. Trips to the supermarket turned into cross-cultural minefields, once bringing me to tears as the cashier upbraided me for not having weighed my vegetables.
We adjusted. Slowly. We had a baby and enthusiastically entered him into the French childcare system. We had a mixture of expat and French friends. Eventually, we became a little bit more French than American.
Six years later, it was time to move back home. We had outstayed our welcome in France, at least according to the labyrinth-like France-US tax treaties, and it was time to cut and run.
But hey! We’re going back home to New York City! That can’t be so different, right!? NBD!
The first few weeks were easy: We caught up with old friends and rejoiced in the hyper-convenience of living in America. (Target! 24-hour drug stores! Grocery delivery!) We ate our way through the city and reveled in being able to understand everything around us.
Even though he had two American parents, he was essentially a French kid.
But our 3-year-old son was struggling. While we were reacclimating to a familiar culture, he was experiencing straight-up culture shock. Even though he had two American parents, he was essentially a French kid.
His formative years were spent happily immersed in a loving creche and his French vocabulary was stronger than his English. He was in love with Trotro but had never heard of Doc McStuffins. But he looked and sounded American, so this huge cultural difference wasn’t apparent to anyone, including his well-intentioned parents.
Culture shock is characterized by disorientation and disconnect, anxiety and frustration. For adults who can rationalize what’s going on, it’s awful. If you’ve ever been through it, then you know.
Now imagine what it feels like to a tiny person who has been uprooted from a safe, secure place filled with loving friends and caretakers—only to be deposited into a scary new place where even the fire engines and police cars make different sounds.
As I think back to the first few months of my son’s life here, I cringe at how confused he must have felt. Navigating preschool on a daily basis must have been so difficult for him: The sheer quantity of little things that he just didn’t know (like how to sit cross-legged at circle time) must have been staggering.
I imagine he felt like he was constantly in the wrong for not following rules he didn’t know existed in the first place. To top it all off, half of his vocabulary had effectively been taken away from him during school hours.
And just like the day at the grocery store where I broke down in tears at the cash register, one day my son’s feelings came to the surface. He started to act out at school, to the point that we worried he’d be kicked out.
At home, he refused to speak French and got agitated if I took him to French-language playgroups. Our sweet, fun-loving boy had been transformed into a bundle of rage, ready to ignite at the slightest aggravation. My husband and I panicked: We had broken our son.
Our first reaction was to call the director of our son’s French creche: Had he been acting like this all along and no one told us!? She assured us that this was all completely out of character, which meant that it was a reaction to the move and therefore would pass.
She also gently reminded us that this was a massive—and likely painful–transition for him. Somehow this fact had escaped my attention, and I felt like an utter failure as a mom.
Around the same time, we started to work with a wonderful child psychologist who helped us find tools to help our son through the adjustment period. For example, when he was upset, our go-to phrase had been, “Use your words.”
Turns out, to a bilingual kid who has just lost the ability to use half his vocabulary, that’s supremely unhelpful. (Damn you, Daniel Tiger!) Instead we began to narrate his feelings for him, “I bet you’re feeling really mad right now because it’s time to turn off the TV.” It’s the little things.
Five months in and it’s still an adjustment period, both for him and for us as parents. But we’re getting there.
My takeaway from this nightmare period is this: Kids are adaptable, they absolutely are. They’re sponges and soak up everything around them.
But if you’re facing a similar move, don’t make our mistake and cavalierly think that everything will fall into place by itself. It might, it might not.
Our adaptable kids need our help, especially when they’re navigating a culture that’s ours—not theirs.
Here are some tips that worked wonders for us, which I wish I had known from the get-go:
- Narrate feelings instead of asking about them. Definitive statements like “I bet you’re SUPER frustrated right now!” or “I bet you’re sad that you can’t play with your friend” are especially helpful for bilingual kids because you’re also providing them with nuanced vocabulary.
- According to our psychologist, it’s normal if a child “rejects” elements of his former home, as it may be too painful or is perceived as a hindrance to integrating to the new home. For us, it was the French language. My son refuses to speak a word of it and recently told us it makes him sad when he hears it. For other children, it might be certain foods, routines, or even FaceTiming particular friends. If you see this, know that it’s normal and don’t force these elements on your child if she’s resisting.
- Don’t hesitate to share your mixed feelings about the move. Lets him know that it’s okay if he also misses things about his former home. Use phrases like, “I really love living in our new city but I also really miss seeing my best friend every day.”
- Be cautious about introducing a new, third language right off the bat. Many of the preschools we looked at featured Mandarin- or Spanish-language portions of the day. While this is awesome for kids growing up in a monolingual environment, it can be a linguistic minefield for kids who aren’t even used to English being the dominant language. In the end, we found a preschool that just had an hour of basic Spanish in the afternoon. Our son reacted horribly to it (this is when a lot of the tantrums occurred) so we finally asked the teachers to let him sit out until he requested to participate.
- Lay the groundwork and set expectations at the new school. If, like us, you have a child who is outwardly American but culturally not, set that expectation with your child’s educators. In hindsight, we should have requested an in-depth meeting with my son’s teachers, both to understand their expectations for him and to explain what a difficult transition this would likely be.
Holidays have a special place in our hearts. We grow up with certain traditions—some wacky, some practical, and some that sound crazy when we try to explain them to outsiders. Regardless of how we choose to celebrate our special holidays, celebrating a special occasion outside of the country of origin may make things a bit more complicated.
For one, there are no seasonal reminders that the holiday is approaching. As Sundae mentions in our podcast discussion, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, there are no changing colors of the leaves to indicate the traditional autumn season is upon us. It can create some last minute scrambling if you have to source food or decorations or have to make things from scratch, as one often has to.
We have dropped many US traditions except for a few—Thanksgiving being the one that we’ve held onto the tightest. Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in Sweden like it is in the US—or at all, really. Technically Tacksgiving is a day on their calendar but it comes and goes without much notice.
One benefit to living abroad is that we can discard holidays that we never liked in the first place because there is no social pressure to celebrate them.
We celebrate Thanksgiving because it is a special time for us to be reflective thankful for everything we have in our lives.
We feel like we are positive ambassadors of the Thanksgiving spirit and we hope that our annual dinner feast becomes a tradition that our Swedish friends look forward to each year.
In an ideal world, there would be only perfect relocations. A world in which everything goes according to plan, nobody is running around at the last minute all sweaty with stress, and the children are well behaved on every flight and breeze through connecting airports.
In this ideal world, here’s what a perfect relocation might look like:
In a perfect relocation, there is plenty of time to prepare, find renters/buyers for your current house, sell off unwanted possessions, and close your door one final time without a hint of sadness.
In a perfect relocation, you have familiarized yourself with the local language and have language classes lined up to help ease your family into society upon arrival.
In a perfect relocation, you get one last visit with all of your family members, and your friends throw you an amazing farewell party complete with meaningful gifts and inside jokes.
In a perfect relocation, these same friends and family members promise to keep in touch and they do! You chat with them at least once a month, and they remember to send you birthday cards and wish your children, “Happy Holidays!” just when you think you’ve been forgotten. Nobody forgets to invite you to their events even though they know you can’t come.
In a perfect relocation, the accompanying spouse has a mobile career or is self-employed and has all of the necessary working visas to continue his/her career without interruption.
In a perfect relocation, the children are registered in the schools without interruption of their school year, the neighborhood is scouted, and transportation to and from is already worked out.
In a perfect relocation, there is a team of friendly and helpful people who are experienced in assisting newly landed families to navigate the ins and outs of the new city. They are eager to help you and you become friends instantly.
In a perfect relocation, there is nothing but fun and adventure. Everyone looks toward the future, and nobody wonders what their life might have been had they never moved.
But like all hypothetical situations, this perfect situation is unattainable. Instead, we know that reality is nothing like a perfect relocation and there never can be.
Life doesn’t work that way for anyone.
We are eternally grateful if we experience even a small percentage of these “perfect” scenarios. Unfortunately, we can’t shorten the time it takes to adjust to a new country by sheer willpower or experience.
Experience does not lessen the bittersweetness, the ache for people who know you best wherever they may live, or the culture shock.
But experience does help you appreciate the present and treasure the past.
Experience makes you think twice about your future relocations and the impact they will undoubtedly have on your family.
Experience means that you know precisely how much you don’t know before you go (again) but gives you clues for where to look for the answers.
Experience teaches you that living a life in a foreign country is both rewarding and isolating. At times, the pain of living far from family is crushing pain and at other times, life is joyful and plentiful.
Life is happening 100% to you wherever you are. It doesn’t matter what language is spoken around you or what currency is in your pocket. Living abroad provides no buffer against reality.
It isn’t easy to leave behind everything familiar, but you’ll do it anyway because what choice do you have?
While someone else may wait until the conditions are perfect, your bags are already packed, your goodbyes have been said in a rush, and you’re boarding the plane, ready to live your very imperfect life.
Motherhood didn’t kill my career—moving abroad did.
And by “killing my career” I mean that moving abroad completely changed how I needed to view my employment opportunities. It forced me embrace a field that used to terrify me—entrepreneurship.
I never thought I’d be an entrepreneur. Not in a million years. Entrepreneurism was too risky, too uncertain, and too extroverted for my inner nerdy introvert to ever consider as a possible career choice.
Besides, I’m pretty skilled at learning languages and motivated to integrate into local society. Finding a traditional local job will be a snap, right?
I don’t have the “risk-taking gene” or the “wanderlust gene” gene, I have the my-brain-needs-to-be-engaged-to-be-happy gene and when landing a job in my field ended up being much more difficult than I had imagined, entrepreneurship was my best option.
But…I’m not an entrepreneur…
If you don’t like the term entrepreneur because you associate scary amounts of risk with it then embrace the term, “digital nomad.”
It’s so much sexier and sounds like we are very 21st century, no?
But why is everyone pushing entrepreneurship onto expat partners?
Flexibility is Necessary
During a conversation with Tandem Nomads creator, Amel Derragui, we both commented on how we never thought entrepreneurship was right for us until it became our only choice. Amel’s mission is to help expat partners discover their passion and assist them on their entrepreneur journeys.
“Most expat partners don’t initially think that they’ll need to become entrepreneurs, but most of them do. It solves a problem,” Amel explains.
The problem—knowingly unsaid—is creating a flexible career that a highly-mobile person can take wherever they go and entrepreneurship is the solution.
At the Families in Global Transition Conference, I met tons of life coaches, expat partner career coaches, relationship coaches, artists, designers, and relocation experts—all entrepreneurs who figured out that their highly mobile lives required highly mobile careers.
Hypothetical conversation with 98% of managers
“Hey boss, we are going to be moving every two years. Can I take my job with me wherever we go?”
“Uhh, no. We need you in the office. Here. In this country.”
“Well, okay then. Guess I’ll be unemployed for a while or figure out how to make money on the side doing something else.”
Let’s face it—how many families can successfully maintain two traditional careers while changing locations every few years? Not many.
Something’s gotta give at it’s usually the expat partner’s career that is forced to become malleable.
But how was I supposed to know that I would need a mobile career when I never knew we’d be living abroad?
Without a crystal ball, it’s nearly impossible to pick the right career choice that can easily work with a mobile lifestyle when you originally had no intentions of ever leaving your country.
And yet, when the opportunity to live abroad arose, the only way for me to maintain any semblance of a career was to convert to consulting/freelancing.
Freelance Feast or Famine
The transition from full-time employment to project-based-but-mostly-at-home-with-my-baby employment was a welcomed change. I was a new mom—our son was only nine-months-old when we relocated—and I was comfortable slowing down my career to focus on my baby.
It felt like a natural progression to move from a full-time public health career into a project-based consulting career.
Taking on projects as a public health consultant allowed me to keep my toes in my familiar pool of work while still allowing for immersion into other realms like motherhood and what-the-hell-am-I-doing-in-Sweden things.
At first, I was too busy with my public health projects to even think about anything else. I was stretched to the max—waking up at 4:30 am for calls with colleagues in India, cranking out proposals 9 am – 3 pm while the kiddo was at preschool, and then again on conference calls with east coast colleagues 9 pm – 11 pm every night.
Slowly, over the course of a year, my projects ended and new ones fell through. I intentionally declined a few projects when my daughter was born and found myself without anything on the horizon except for baby snuggles and time.
Without any projects on the horizon, I dove deep into life. We took the opportunity to travel while my husband was on parental leave and I focused more on enjoying my family time.
"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." —Benjamin Franklin
Imagine two faucets pouring into a deep sink—one pouring out statistics, epidemiology, and public health knowledge and the other pouring out poetry, music, and writing.
For me, only one faucet can be turned on at any one time. When the public health faucet turned off, my faucet of creativity turned on which led to the Knocked Up Abroad series.
Had I not experienced a famine in my public health projects, I never would’ve been able to create those books.
What seemed like a disaster at the time (no money, waah!) led to the discovery of an amazing passion that I had no idea was bubbling under the surface.
Quiet times in consulting/freelancing are totally part and parcel of entrepreneurship. Embrace those moments to learn new skills and make new connections that will help you during the busy times.
If you have some time, there’s a great TedX talk that explains exactly why this happened and how boredom is perfect for our brains to create amazing things.
[Tweet “When you don’t have any projects, learn new skills to help you during busy times.”]
Little Risk, Big Reward
Sweden has created an environment that makes it extremely challenging to secure securing full-time employment if you are not a fluent Swedish speaker.
I’m not the only one who has experienced troubles getting hired—it’s a common issue for highly educated immigrants.
My friend, Laras Piniji, originally from Indonesia, worked extremely hard to obtain a Masters Degree in International and Comparative Education at Stockholm University, became fluent in Swedish, and after four arduous years, she landed a full-time position with a Swedish company. She is my hero and role model. She took on the Swedish establishment head on and dominated in a way that I wish I could.
Another example is the impressive Emily Joof who moved to Sweden ridiculously overqualified for her position in a preschool. She found that finding a job in her field was extremely difficult despite having over five years of experience doing project management for NGOs including working for the UN. After 210 applications, she was finally successful in landing her dream job.
Not going to lie, I’m not keen on getting another Masters degree or submitting 210 applications in pursuit of a job that will result in less flexibility and a longer commute (my 10-second commute upstairs is tough to beat), all to work for someone else.
There has to be another way for me to utilize my skills while still working for myself.
Luckily, Sweden’s social infrastructure of universal healthcare, pension plans, and parental leave entitles entrepreneurs to all the same social benefits as traditionally employed workers.
This “low-risk, high reward” environment allows for wandering entrepreneurs in Sweden to take bigger leaps into the start-up world than we might have in another country with less social infrastructure.
Life As An Accidental Entrepreneur
But what if you don’t live in the magical start-up world of Sweden and are hesitant to take the leap like I was?
You may be an “accidental entrepreneur”—someone who never anticipated needing to create a mobile career for this lifestyle that you never anticipated living.
Or maybe you just don’t want to return to a 9-5 office job (those can be really boring).
Fortunately, you can do a lot of things to get started:
Identify what skills you have that you can market and sell as either services or products
Are you an artist? Photographer? Writer? Maybe your mobile lifestyle has put you in contact with a lot of international school people and you want to write a guide to help other parents navigate the international school life.
If you don’t want to market yourself, that’s fine. Then you don’t have a business, you have an expensive hobby.
Here are 9 factors you should evaluate when thinking about a business idea.
Figure out how to register as a sole proprietor or create a business wherever you will be paying taxes
In my case, this was the country in which I was permanently residing (Sweden). This step requires doing a lot of research into your work visa requirements, tax implications, and becoming a legal entity so definitely take your time on this step.
Get to work!
Once you’re all set up you’ll discover that working for yourself is pretty awesome. However, if you’re not a good boss—meaning you’re either too lenient or too hard on yourself—you either won’t get any work done and your business will die or you’ll burn out and be miserable.
Be a good boss and you’ll be a happy worker. Funny how that happens.
I will say that it is much easier to work hard on a topic that I am passionate about than one that is boring and isn’t really what I want to do.
It is a joy to stay up late working on a project that makes my heart sing. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into my next challenge and my passion drives me forward. I never said that about any office job I had previously.
The first few years will probably yield…not much
I blame those free webinars titled, “25 ways to make $10,000 in 100 days” for setting unrealistic expectations for new entrepreneurs. It is highly unlikely that you’ll see much income in the first few years of starting any business and it takes at least five years of hard work and dedication before you’ll see much growth.
Give yourself plenty of time to get ramped up and before you know it, you’ll be chugging along.
If you want to connect with more entrepreneurial-minded expat partners, there are a slew of Facebook groups out there.
Here are just a few groups I highly recommend:
And there are a ton of articles:
Some major takeaways from all of this:
- If you’re an expat partner, you may find entrepreneurship is your only option for employment, especially if you are highly mobile
- Your expectations for employment abroad may not be based in reality
- Your assumptions about entrepreneurship may be completely incorrect
- Despite your education, you may need to retrain or learn the local language in order to be employable
- “Losing” your traditional career may be the best professional move in the long run
- Don’t be afraid to take risks especially if the rewards are high and you don’t have much to lose
- Discovering a hidden passion is the best gift you can imagine
- There are tons of resources already available and people who want to help you become a digital nomad
Did your career change when you had kids or when you moved or both?
Let me know on our discussion on Facebook.
Want some inspiration about expatriation, career, and motherhood? I spoke to two moms who went through a huge career transition in Sweden.
The fourth article in the Global Women Discuss Love, Loss, and Family Abroad series between Gabrielle of the Expat Coffee Club and a few Knocked Up Abroad Again contributors tackles moving abroad and the emotional challenges associated with these large transitions.
Gabrielle: When my parents told me that we were moving, I was devastated. Despite the fact that we were not leaving the country, this move seemed like the end of the world to me. I was leaving a school that I loved, great friends, and a fun neighborhood for the complete unknown. My friends and I promised to keep in touch and see each other often, but being dependent on our parents to drive us an hour one way just so that we could see each other, such a promise quickly fell through.
Although it was not a new country, it sure felt like it. The people, the language, and the culture in Quebec were all so very different from what I had known. Furthermore, because of the historic relationship between Quebec and the rest of Canada, classmates felt it very important and cool to emphasize just how they were different from the rest of the country, creating an “us and them” sensation. Although I spoke perfect French it wasn’t the right kind which meant that I didn’t fit in and also warranted me bad nicknames and mean comments. Even after years of living in Quebec I still feel like I’m straddling two worlds without quite fitting in either of them.
Because of this experience, I became worried about how an international move would affect my future children. Traveling around the world with babies seems fine, but what do you do once they’re older and want to go to school and have friends?
Sarah: This last move from Hong Kong to Zurich was really difficult for our 4-year-old son. He mentioned Hong Kong at least once a day for about six months. It was heartbreaking because it took so long to integrate into Swiss life. The best thing about being an expat kid is that it is a passport to making other expat friends. It seems that he has a strong connection to other little boys who moved here about the same time and who also must miss their previous life. Keeping children busy and establishing family rituals are key.
Cristina: Hi Gabrielle! Traveling and moving to different countries when having a baby can be challenging too. I wouldn’t say it’s easy. We paid attention to health risks, access to good healthcare systems, safety when driving for example. It can be really complicated. But yes, maybe it’s easier than with children that are already “rooted” somewhere. When they go older, you face different challenges. You need to support them to say goodbye well and to adjust to new environments. Also to build their identity despite the lack of stability.
Nicola: Never underestimate how much kids learn from traveling—whether it be bartering in markets, understanding the elasticity of demand (e.g., hiked-up prices in airports for captive markets or how to convert between currencies) and soo much more. If you live for any length of time in other countries—you send them to school…and they make friends. Just as in your home country, there are great schools (and of course not so great schools) all over the world. The language of instruction may or may not be in English, but most kids tend to thrive wherever you plant them, particularly if the parents have a positive attitude to the location. For many children experiencing different school systems or language can be extremely beneficial and help them become a more rounded individual. It becomes trickier if you’re in rural Africa, for example, or if your child has special educational needs, but that’s a totally different story.
Vanessa: This is completely a personal choice in what a family finally does, but opportunities abound. There is an international school in even the most remote of cities in China (looking at you Xining!). My personal perspective is if there are local children growing up healthily and happily in the area where we plan to live, there’s no reason our children can’t live there and have friends since children are more action friends than “let’s sit and chat over coffee.” Language isn’t really needed like it is for adults. Is there anywhere in the world where people are that children are also not there? Maybe that means educationally we’ll need to homeschool or find private tutors for a time, or even mix our education choices, but we’ll make it work if we want to live where we do. By the way, did you know China’s math and science test scores are higher than the math and science scores of the US?
Lucille: It seems to be standard that once your child reaches 12, 13, 14 years old, moving becomes more challenging. We said that we’d move until our kids start high school, but I know some families who had to stop earlier because their kids refused to move again. It’s a tough situation, because how much say should you give your kids?
Don’t forget to read the other posts in this collaborative series:
For a list of free resources to help you with your next relocation, visit the Resources page.
Happy memories and experiences were sometimes interrupted by new challenges as a parent when the country underwent country-wide demonstrations, a political uprising, a transitional government, and a coup d’état. While not ever necessarily feeling that she or her family would be targeted directly in these events, the terrorist attack in Ouagadougou left a feeling of uncertainty that was hard to shake.
Parenting during abrupt transitions is never easy and often times we look to others to see what they would do in our situation.
How did Sundae and her husband ultimately decide how to make a very difficult decision for their family? Watch the video interview below and leave a comment.
Head over to Sundae’s website to contact her or reach out so that you can optimize your time and make your life easier during your transition. In another interview, Sundae also discusses how she deals with unexpected transitions.