Cultural shock is a challenge for people of every age. Adults can understand and deal with cultural shock better. However, the same cannot be said about children.
Expat Child Syndrome (ECS) is a real condition and is faced by many children that move abroad. Just like adults, a sudden change in environment and culture can be a hard pill to swallow. Many behavioural changes can occur in children once they change countries.
Let’s have a look at five approaches that can help your children cope with cultural shock.
1. Prepare Properly
Before you leave, discuss with your children and explain everything they need to know about why you are moving. Try to see things from their point of view and think about what things are of importance to them.
Don’t try to keep secrets from your children. It will only increase the shock later. Give them realistic expectations and try to prepare them beforehand as early as possible. If you are not taking your dog with you, tell them as early so it doesn’t shock them.
Listen to their questions and give straightforward answers without including any lies. Discuss the move as much as you can and try to instil a familiarity in them.
2. Say Goodbyes
This transit is as significant for them as it is for you. Before you leave, make sure your child has said a proper farewell to all their friends, pets, familiar places and home.
If possible, try to have a get-together party. Invite your child’s friends so everyone can say goodbyes, and this can help your child prepare well for the move.
Also, ensure your children that they will be able to keep in touch with their friends through technology. And if you plan on coming back home after some months, also tell this to your children so they can feel better and look up to it.
3. Surround your kids with familiar things
Take all the things your children are attached to, such as teddy bears and try to create a familiar environment in your new home. Having an environment with the contents of their previous home will help them deal better with the newness.
Try to find familiar activities that your child enjoyed back home. If your kid liked riding bikes, try to manage a bike so they can get involved in a familiar activity. If your child loved visiting parks or zoos, try to get a trip to the zoo once in a while.
Try to familiarize them with the new place by recreating old events, so they don’t feel alienated.
4. Be understanding
When your child is moving abroad, they are going to be stripped of lots of their old habits. Children cannot deal with frustrations as effectively as adults. Try to understand this and be empathic to them.
If your kid throws temper tantrums, instead of being strict, try to understand and comfort them. Understand their changes in behaviour and among all chaos, try to be the one thing that doesn’t change.
Talk to them and identify what made then anxious or angry. Observe the changes in behaviour and try to reward them often, so they feel happy.
5. Get them excited about new things.
Tell them about all the good things they are going to experience—the new food, a beach, new animals at the zoo, etc. Tell them how you’re going to enjoy the new place and how you can’t wait to get there.
Tell them about all the new friends they will make at their school and all the fun they will have. Getting your children excited will make their journey less stressful and will give them something to be excited about.
Living an ex-pat life can be hard. The new environment and a sudden change in language is not easy, especially if you’re a child. Adjusting to foreign life will take some time. You have to think from your child’s point of view and comfort and assist them wherever you can. Try to be an understanding parents and help them make new associations, so their journey of change gets easier.