In addition to the list of things I wrote about last year, there’s another thing to consider before making the big move abroad. Family. (If you’re reading this having just had a tiff with the mother-in-law or a sibling, come back when you’ve calmed down.) But seriously, despite the well-worn adage “You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family”, raising children abroad often means raising them thousands of miles from family members.
My teenage daughter recently wrote a paper about being a “dual citizen” (US and UK) and her familiarity with both countries. She has cousins her age in England, and indeed second and third cousins that she knows quite well, but no cousins in the US. Although she loves life in the US, and considers herself more American then British since she was born here, she stated that she felt “at home” and “safe” in England because of her family. As someone who is very close both to siblings and cousins, that made me question whether my move abroad has been the right thing to do for my children.Although many people move abroad for a “better life”, you should consider how great that life is will be if there are no family members within hundreds, even thousands, of miles? Might it affect how children relate to their own children in later life? Will the lack of close family members contribute to any feelings of homesickness or isolation?
Expat Expert – http://www.expatexpert.com – (and Expat Focus columnist) Robin Pascoe is more upbeat about the issue, and comments, “I agree they miss out on something but I think they end up getting the best of all possible worlds. Extended family get-togethers are not like they used to be as everyone is so very busy.
So for expat kids seeing their cousins etc over the summer AND having the benefit of growing up global, I think they come out winners in the end. Also, as adults, I have certainly noticed my daughter has embraced all her cousins (whom she met growing up through rituals we faithfully arranged like a summer fishing trip with my father) without any of the serious childhood baggage…or even interference from the aunts and uncles. She’s become close to them on her own adult terms.”
So – if you’re very close to your immediate or extended family members, examine how living without them might affect you, and ask yourself if this is what you want for your children. Obviously, many parents make it work and I’m not advising against a move away from family, but do give it some serious consideration.
Toni Summers Hargis is the author of "Rules, Britannia; An Insider’s Guide to Life in the United Kingdom", (St. Martin’s Press) and blogs as Expat Mum.