Exposing your kids to a different culture during their formative years is an amazing gift. These young people can develop super powers in terms of flexible thinking and interpersonal skills. You’ll be creating what’s known as a Third Culture Kid (TCK) – Barack Obama is one of these!
But they can also experience elevated stress levels and a fragmented sense of belonging.
Managing this risk is an ongoing process, but here are 3 strategies to use pre-departure:
1. Be cultural detectives as a family.
Help your kids be positive and curious about New Zealand, rather than shocked by differences because they arrive unprepared. The first step is to talk about your home country culture – what are the celebrations, how to people dress and eat, what type of behaviour is acceptable, what do people do with their leisure time.
Then introduce some discussion about what might be different about life in New Zealand. For example a summer Christmas means some unique ways of celebrating which you can read about here. And here’s a list of tips about Kiwi culture to talk about as a family.
2. Mindful goodbyes build your kids’ resilience.
Make time, and organise events where appropriate, to farewell people, places and even pets. Feeling sad about leaving, or any transitions, is normal and it helps to create a positive memory alongside.
My daughter left the only home she had ever known, in Singapore, at the age of 4. She narrated a farewell tour while I filmed a movie of the garden and house. It’s become a treasured item which she now watches with a feeling of gratefulness. She’s learned that a painful situation can change over time, rather than being stuck in the negative emotion of un-marked departure.
3. Supercharge your bond with your child.
At least initially, their sense of belonging will rest on the family unit. Spend a fun evening together asking each other this list of questions to build up a profile of each family member.
· What makes you really angry?
· Who’s your best friend?
· Who’s your hero?
· What it you’re the best thing we do together as a family?
· What is your biggest fear?
· What’s your favourite food, book, music, colour, video game?
Deep diving into this exercise gives a double return. Your child will really feel listened to. Plus, when the going gets tough with the stresses of adjusting to new schools and setting up a new life, you’ll have this information in your toolbox to bring kids and parents back together again.
Time for a favourite family activity anyone?
By sharing our knowledge through this blog we hope to help newcomers prepare and accelerate their adjustment to life in NZ.
Mobile designs and delivers expat onboarding programmes – finding housing and schooling, community connection, cultural awareness training, coaching, spousal support. We get expats (and their families) settled and focused on their new jobs and lives. Mobile’s mission is to connect newcomers with what they need to thrive in New Zealand.