There is a lot of advice around on how to help your children adjust to moving abroad. Schooling, making friends, leaving family behind, learning a new language etc. But, what happens when you decide to move back home? Repatriation, or returning home, can be a struggle for children, especially those who feel closer to their adopted country than their home country.
Children who have spent the bulk of their childhood abroad won’t have the same ties to their birth country as parents who grew up there. Repatriation can be as stressful as moving abroad in the first place, and parents need to be aware of the effects of reverse culture shock on children.
Five tips to help children adjust back home
School – Many returnee children are singled out as “different”, even if they technically share the same nationality as their peers. If you feel your child isn’t settling in well at school, encourage them to talk to their friends about where they have been living. Ask their teacher is they can give a short presentation in class about living abroad. It will help interest their classmates and explain any “differences” they have perceived in your child.
Language – If your child learnt a different language while living abroad, encourage them to continue speaking it. Have a “French night” or “Arabic food night” once a week for example. Check embassy websites for cultural events or language exchanges suitable for your children. Continuing to use the language will help your children maintain cultural ties with your host country and while making sure they don’t forget what they learnt!
Friends – Encourage your child to keep in touch with the friends they made while abroad. Write an update email or letter once a week together for example. If your child knows they can stay in touch as much as they want to the frequency will likely naturally decrease as time goes on.
Local culture – Much like when you move abroad with children you need time to adapt to the local culture. Children who have little or no memories of their home countries will need to be taught about this new culture. Cook typical food and find activities you can practice as a family.
Support for you – It’s possible you will also suffer from reverse culture shock symptoms, not unlike your children. One of the best things to do is contact other ex-expats who have been through it. Once you talk to them you will realise your emotions are normal and that things will eventually get better. There is a wealth of online support groups and forums for returnees. Understanding how you feel about returning home will undoubtedly help you understand what your children are going through.
If you have experience repatriating with children please let us know in the comment section below.