Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Expat Child Syndrome

Now, I am not a person given to complain or stew over things. I certainly am no fan of expressions such as syndrome but I know life doesn't always hand you winning cards, if you get my drift. I am wondering if my parents or grandparents ever used the word syndrome? Their generations survived. Anyways, I have decided to share some information I came across because I am a firm believer that if you possess the information of what's going on, you have won half the battle. Here goes:

What is Expat Child Syndrome and what causes it?
Expat Child Syndrome is a term that has been coined by psychologists to describe an emotional stress in children caused by a move abroad.

ECS is most commonly found in children who are aged between 10 and 15. During this period of a child’s life they undergo significant emotional and physical changes and will often utilize their social circles as a mean of coping with these changes. Adolescence is a difficult period in the lives of all children, but when children are removed from their close circle of friends they can often find it even more difficult to deal with the mental and physical changes they are experiencing.

How does Expat Child Syndrome manifest itself?
Expat child syndrome manifests itself in many different ways and may impact some children more than others. Common symptoms include seclusion, loneliness, withdrawn behavior and uncooperative or even disruptive behavior. In the majority of the cases children will eventually settle down and will begin to understand some of the benefits of their move abroad.

However, some children may find it much more difficult to fit into life in the host country and may develop psychological issues over a longer period of time. If they are unable to develop a social circle in their new country this may lead to a longer term issue with making friends and fitting in with social groups and they may also harbor longer term resentment towards their parents for making them move away from a home they loved.

In what circumstances is ECS more likely to occur?
1) Older children will generally be more impacted by a move away and are therefore more likely to suffer from expat child syndrome. They are more likely to have developed strong friendships in their home country and will be unhappy at the prospect of leaving these behind.

2) The country that the child is locating to will also impact the degree to which the move impacts their psychological state. If the host country is dramatically dissimilar than their home country they will find the transition extremely difficult. If the host country is a very long way away from their home and their family and friends they are also more likely to feel excluded and isolated.

3) The school environment will have a significant impact on a child’s ability to fit into their new home. If they are able to attend an international school they will be more likely to have an opportunity to interact with children from a similar background to themselves and it will be easier for them to adjust to their new environment.

4) The rate and frequency at which they relocate. ECS is more likely to occur in children who are relocating more than once. They may become frustrated at having to move countries again having worked hard and established new social circles.

In order to avoid expat child syndrome occurring it is essential that parents carefully plan and implement the move abroad involving their children and talking to them at every stage of the transition (before, during and after). LISTEN TO THEM.
We all adapt sooner or later. It is harder for some than for others and every move is different. But remember YOU ARE A TEAM. One can't work without the other AND YOU CAN ALWAYS COUNT ON EACHOTHER!


Ria said...

This is so true. We have just recently moved from the UK to Spain, I have a 15, 12 and 5 year old. It is a lot harder for the teen, and I have to make sure that she is OK all the time. A year before we moved here we made sure that they learned the language, and its definitely worth it at least they don't feel alienated! I would advice for anyone moving abroad to do it with small children as they are more adaptable. My 12 and 5 year old are settling down well, but of course with my 15 year old its hard specially with hormones and the puberty thing. I just make sure she is well supported and kept busy. It makes it a lot easier.

Expat with Kids said...

Yep, the older the kids are, the harder it gets. Involvement and communication is key. Where in Sapin have you moved to? We lived outside Madrid for three years and loved it!!!!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...