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The benefits of raising expat kids

This is a reflective article published on Expatica.com recently by a former expat mom. What are your experiences raising children abroad?
Do you have “third-culture children”? Excerpts below.

Why expat life was good for my kids

Nervous a child’s life abroad might lead to problems as an adult? Relax, blogger Maria Foley tells how expatriating her family brought positive character to her kids.

“…Raising kids is a crap shoot: you do your best, but there are no guarantees they’ll turn out well. Throw in a parenting choice that’s the slightest bit unconventional — moving to another country with your children, for example — and you’d better steel yourself for the self-doubt and parental angst that’s coming your way.

It’s a rare expat parent who doesn’t have at least one major crisis of conscience over the decision to uproot their children and replant them on foreign soil. I wrestled with the bad-mommy demon countless times.

Halfway through third grade we moved to France, and all her old fears and insecurities came back with a vengeance. The first day of school was a disaster.

Soon, though, she began once again to shed her old skin and become someone new. She made friends in both languages, and surprised us all by becoming the best French speaker in the family. There was no school bus in Bordeaux, so she conquered the transit system instead. Most amazingly, she began to perform, taking part in piano recitals and the school talent show.

“I love living in France,” she said.

Exposure to different cultures has endowed them with remarkable maturity, adaptability, a sense of independence, and an open-minded approach to life — not to mention top-notch language, social, and cross-cultural skills…

  1. January 24th, 2011 at 01:31 | #1

    Seems obvious to me that raising children in a France would be positive because France herself is POSITIVE!

    Olga Kovshanova, MBA, MA
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  2. January 24th, 2011 at 11:38 | #2

    Well, I am French and I am no sure if France is positive 🙂 I chose to escape France to live in Japan and USA !

    Kids are much more resilient than adults because they don’t have deep-rooted fears about change. Change is life! So I agree that moving abroad with kids help them to adjust to a world that is changing even faster than when we were kids. I also believe the attitude of parents about the move is very important. If both parents embrace the ups and downs and have a general positive attitude, the children will adapt quicker. But as you said there is no guarantee that our parenting style will make our kids happy adults. We all do our best !

  3. January 26th, 2011 at 01:28 | #4

    The child in the excerpt (my youngest daughter) has always had trouble with transitions. Anything that smacked of change scared and upset her, so you can imagine what difficulties we had when we moved abroad. It was while we were living in Singapore that she first began to blossom — a process that continued when we moved to France. It’s hard to know how much of this can be attributed to expatriation, and how much is because of the normal maturing process as she gets older. But I’m convinced that living in other cultures — way outside her comfort zone — has made her more open, more outgoing, and far less resistant to change.

    • January 26th, 2011 at 09:39 | #5

      Thank you very much for your insight, Maria. I think we all appreciate the perspective this article gives on living abroad with a family. My goal is to bring expats together online to discuss, and your story certainly is enlightening for us all. Best wishes to you – Michael

  4. March 21st, 2011 at 14:41 | #6

    Good analysis. Sometimes I ask myself if were doing the right thing, but always come back to the positive notion of exposing our 3 children to the world… So far, it’s been positive, but like any other expat parent, we go thru good days, and not so great ones… The later tend to make us re-evaluate our decisions. The first ones keep us on track…

    • March 21st, 2011 at 14:45 | #7

      Thank you for your feedback, I appreciate it. I think raising kids abroad, you will always have a cost-benefit, pro/con situation but that overall having them exposed to other cultures, languages and perspectives (while being careful not to neglect their own national identity) can be very enriching.

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