My traveling shoes!
It is never too early to start collecting memories of your child’s emotions. This is especially true for children who are global nomads.
Due to the fast pace of our lives, we seldom have time to close specific chapters. We get on a plane, and within hours of departing one culture, we land in another. Parents locate new homes, establish new routines, and hire new ‘quasi-family members.’
Families start all over again
As we Skype, Twitter and blog ourselves around the world, we need to take time out to collect some emotional memories that are beneficial for the whole family. Emotion stories can help you strengthen your child’s resilience and by doing so make a significant and positive change in their life.
I am often asked, “What are the psychological challenges one faces when relocating to another country?” The most significant challenges always seem to be to give up the stereotypes that you already have about the new location and to be able to understand that culture or geography location genuinely. Media always puts in your mind what this location will be like, but it is often the best of the best (ideal vacation spots) of the worst of the worst (crime/property).
There is seldom any reality check on what is the norm for that area. When you land you already have full knowledge of what happens in your new location, but you do not have the complete picture. You do not have a balanced understanding of that city or the lifestyle you will be having.
Part of the Puzzle
Letting go of stereotypes
Hong Kong is a perfect example of needing to let go of stereotypes since a person seldom experiences what you see on TV while living in Hong Kong. Just now if I google Hong Kong, it is more than securities and futures and skyscrapers. Hong Kong for kids, at first, seems hard with it’s packed streets and heat. Soon the only thing you’ll find yourself short of is time because there are so many events and attractions.
One critical psychological issue in all expat or people who move around is the need to belong or have loyalty to their ‘unit”. After we cover Maslow’s hierarchy of food, water, shelter, safety, and security – after all our basic needs are met we need to belong. We need to connect. We need to belong to a family, a community, a unit, a race of people, a tribe, a great school, a good job or something.
If we feel connected, we are happy and fulfilled
Parents can ensure social and emotional stability in their changing environment by blending past and present. You have to connect to both the new location and your previous locations or home. The importance of attachment and those vital close connections is what makes a person happy. If you understand how relationships develop, then you have more success as a global nomad.
I like to think of this as proximity – sameness – belonging – loyalty and significance as levels in a healthy connection. Let me give you an example of this:
In Hong Kong – Often work is a place to ensure social and emotional stability because of the relationships you can make in this environment. At the school, you have many different people you come in contact with (proximity). You may be from different nationalities but have children the same age (sameness). We are all very different, but we have the sameness of belonging to the same school that brings us closer together. When you spend day to day in the same environment, a person should feel like they belong. It is only people who choose to work, take breaks, eat lunch in isolation that misses out on the critical ingredient of belonging. Many people have loyalty for the job they are working in, or they would just quit.
Significance is vital for global people
You need to feel like you got something beneficial out of your time in your host country and you need to feel that you gave back something to it.
The way you leave a location sets you up for your new place. If you continue to feel liked you missed out of something because you didn’t live in your home country or you felt put out because you assignment was ‘too hard’ or you felt that you wanted to leave the country and say good riddance quickly…then your next job will also seem shallow and not significant. The baggage we carry around the world should be our clothing and not our anger, disappointment or sadness.
Families with school-age kids are lucky because they have the benefit of having a natural connection to a whole group of similar people. It is essential for a family to deal with the emotional side of relocating. This is something that you just can’t for granted or that it is no big deal. Relocating does have an emotional side, but that does not mean it has to be negative. Any change is emotional.
Top five tips for Parents who relocate their Families
- Build resilience in your life and your families life – This is the ability to bounce back when things are not going well. It is shown in your attributes, the more positive qualities you have, the higher your chance of developing a strong resilience.
- Build a vocabulary of emotions, so everyone in the family knows what the other members are feeling.
- Proactively address the need for positive role models for your children (or yourself) as you move around the world, it is likely grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are thousands of miles away. These people frequently serve as important role models, so it is important to not to replace them but to find more of them. The more healthy adult and friend connections of both genders and various ages the better.
- Build persistence – Persistence is an area that families all over the world can work on. But for expat families especially, this is important because too often the ability to drop out of things ‘because we are moving soon’ masks the underlying issue – lack of persistence. We need to make sure we are not leaving as an opportunity to run or hide from things.
- Build play into your life. In our hectic expat lifestyle, we often overlook the notion of play. All families need to spend time together having fun.