It’s finally come through! That longed for promotion with a company-paid relocation to an exotic foreign country with all the perks, excitement…and anxiety.
It will be great for you or your partner; settling in to a new position, meeting new people, exploring new ways of doing business. But what about your kids? How will they adapt, how will they handle this move away from their friends, school, and familiar environment? How will they be influenced by a completely different language and cultural behavior?
They will become “Third Culture Kids” (TCKs), a term that was coined for expatriate children by American sociologist Ruth Hill Useem in her sociological studies of children who have spent a significant period of their childhood or adolescence living in a culture other than their own. Her research showed that the benefits for children are likely to far outweigh any downside, if handled properly.
Here are 10 key benefits for expatriates and their families:
- Integration: Being able to integrate in a new culture and society from an early age gives expat children a great advantage in many situations later on. Learning to communicate with different people and adjusting to different environments will increase a child’s verbal skills, knowledge, adaptability, and self-confidence. Your child will be comfortable speaking to and being around all sorts of people from a very young age.
- Understanding the world: Through living in a different country, children truly appreciate the differences in quality of life and the problems faced every day by people of other nationalities. Such experience for a child will develop a sense of the world around them, increasing awareness and developing empathy.
- New experiences – over and over again: There are constantly new things to explore, new places to go, new adventures to embark on. Children living abroad learn all the time, from new friends, new food, new cultures, new ways to dress, new art, new music…the list is endless. Your children will experience a sense of wonder, excitement, and appreciation of the world.
- Languages: The chance to learn foreign languages is something that not every child is fortunate to have. So it is gift that will stand them in good stead as they grow to adulthood. And don’t worry about this being confusing for your child. Actually the younger the child, the easier it is to learn a new language. Any expat child is most likely to become bilingual or even multilingual, giving them exceptionally valuable skills for life.
- Education: People who grew up abroad are highly likely to earn at least a Bachelor’s degree, and possibly Master’s degrees and Doctorates. A study conducted in the USA identified adult “third-culture kids” as more academically successful. Compared to only 21 percent of the American population who graduated from four year college, 81 percent of the adult TCKs have earned at least a bachelor’s degree. Half of this number have gone on to earn master’s degrees and doctorates.
- Personality development: Children relocating abroad will develop skills necessary to adapt to new environments and accept new cultures. By learning how to accept various changes, a child will learn to overcome future obstacles. This will be an invaluable education in itself, and it will help your child become a well-rounded adult.
- Family bonding: This is a time for a family to stick together, as you all learn how to handle your lives in a new environment. Initially your child will not necessarily have close friends and will be more reliant on parents and siblings for support, entertainment, and social interaction – this can have a very positive effect on the family bond.
- Problem solving: “Third culture kids” are likely to become excellent problem solvers, as they are forced to overcome a variety of challenges: adjusting to a new school, making new friends, learning a new language, and fitting into a completely new culture. These challenges will make a child think of new ways to communicate and behave, teaching them from a very early age how to solve problems in all aspects of their lives.
- New is good: Change can be positive and exciting. Children that move abroad can more easily develop positive approaches to unpredicted changes in life. Being able to do this will give your child the ability to enjoy life so much more!
- Immersing themselves in new cultures: Expat children must learn how to live in a new country and amongst different people. By learning new languages, experiencing different cultures, and being exposed to other religious traditions, your child will understand and appreciate the cultural differences wherever they travel in the world. As a result they will be far better able to absorb the best that any nation has to offer and become true citizens of the world.
As you can see, moving abroad with your children will not only benefit you and your career, but it will empower your children will beneficial skills that will enable them to lead better-rounded, well-adjusted, and fulfilling lives.