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Moving abroad brings with it many rewards and a fair number of challenges. Expats with children often complain that these challenges increase exponentially if children are involved. The good news though, is that once the move is made and the children have settled abroad, the majority of expats report their children have benefited tremendously from the move – both socially and educationally.

The benefits of third culture children

Third culture children are children that grow up in countries other than their home country, and often end up living their adult years in a third country. Various reports show that third culture children tend to be highly adaptive, more open-minded and more empathetic. To ensure your children have a happy move and enjoy your relocation abroad here are some things to keep in mind about the needs that children have at different ages.

Babies and toddlers

The challenge with children this age is that they need constant attention and you often have to have eyes in the back of your head – especially when you are travelling through airports or on public transport. Fortunately, children this age have very few direct emotional issues – as long as they have supportive families and their favourite toys around them. Once you have arrived in your new country, it’s important to establish routines to help them settle into their new home. If you can keep these routines as close as possible to the ones they were used to back home – then the transition will be even easier.

Four to eight years old

Children this age often have friends at playschool or primary school that they will be upset to say goodbye to – however they are also pretty adaptable and are easily caught up in the excitement of the move – especially if you can make it as fun as possible. The added advantage of this age group, if you are moving to a country with a foreign first language, is that they will quickly learn the local language – so consider placing them at a local state school if you plan on staying in the country for the long-term. Children at this age are also very inquisitive so be prepared to respond patiently to all their questions about your move!

Nine to twelve years old

Children this age often have established friendships and find the move more traumatic. They may often direct their anger and confusion at their parents – especially if they are not being involved in the moving process. Try and handle their concerns as positively as possible and emphasise all the benefits of the move. Prepare them as much as possible before your move – informing them about their new schools and new country. Even at this age, a routine is important, so put one in place as soon as you arrive. Expect the first three months to be a challenge – and try and get them involved in groups and clubs soon after your arrival.

Twelve to sixteen years old

The early teens are often a difficult time – no matter what country you are living in! Children at this age are thinking about their future – especially if they have to make final subject choices at school. Try and emphasise the opportunities that the move provides in terms of their future – and if you expect to return back to your home country, find an international school with a compatible syllabus so they don’t fall behind.

Sixteen to eighteen years old

While children this age are a lot more rational, moving your children at this age can be very disruptive to their education. Many expat parents try to avoid moving their children at this age, often opting to leave them at local boarding schools rather than move them to a new country with an entirely new education system. This is a very personal choice – if an International School, with a compatible syllabus to your home country, is available in your new home city, this could also be an option.

Whatever the age of your children, you will be surprised to discover how adaptable they are, if they are supported during the move process. In addition, you will discover your older children will keep in contact with friends back home using social media – and before you know it, they will have a global network that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.

If you are a South African expat living abroad with your family and would like to know more about how you can maximise your finances through financial emigration, accessing your South African retirement annuity and our tailor-made tax solutions for South Africans around the world, contact FinGlobal today.