Tuesday, January 13, 2015

What is the Expat Child Syndrome?

Many people ask me how my children react to our moving around the globe on a more or less regular bases. My fundamental belief is kids resound off their parents. They might not always feel the same way in a given moment but it is you - their parents - they trust and turn to for guidance in the end.

There is something called an Expat Child Syndrome:
Expat Child Syndrome is a term that has been coined by psychologists to describe an emotional stress in children caused by a move abroad.

What causes it?
ECS is most commonly found in children who are aged between 10 and 15. During this period of a child’s life they undergo significant emotional and physical changes and will often utilize their social circles as a mean of coping with these changes. Adolescence is a difficult period in the lives of all children, but when children are removed from their close circle of friends they can often find it even more difficult to deal with the mental and physical changes they are experiencing.

Teens are likely to need plenty of empathy and support even though they may not ask for it in an obvious way. Look out for rebelling and mood swings. These are signals that he or she needs help with the adjustment.

In order to avoid expat child syndrome occurring it is essential that parents carefully plan and implement the move abroad. Involve your kids in preparation and execution of the move according to their age, of course. Tell them it is OK to feel scared or worried or sad. Sometimes even happy or excited at the same time! Express your own feelings more explicitly but most of all talk individually and as a family: A LOT!

Keep open lines of communication throughout the emigration process. This is especially important during the settling-in phase where children will deal with unfamiliar people and surroundings, and will need plenty of positive support. Listen to your child, let them express their feelings, without necessarily coming up with solutions.

Remind yourself of the importance of having a proper farewell. Think of it as a gateway between the new life and the old. Hold a going away party, take lots of photographs and make your children feel as if they are on the cusp of a great experience. Get the children to plan their own goodbyes as well.

You are a team embarking on a new adventure. Celebrate the positive and don't forget the memories  as well as your friends that you will carry with you in your heart.

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