My kids keep telling me that they want to go back to Japan for skiing. We just spent a most wonderful week on the slopes in the Swiss Alps and had a fantastic time there, so why do they keep asking to fly to another, faraway country to do the same they can do so close to home there? Well, they obviously don’t have a big concept of cost for the trip but even though I keep telling them it’s too expensive they still want to go – and I find their request wonderful!
See, it’s not just the skiing and perfect snow they are after. They miss the food there (heavenly gyoza, slurpy noodle soups, and mouthwatering sashimi, for example), they miss the accommodation (ryokans with tatami beds), and they miss the culture and diversity there as well. And obviously, I can’t blame them because I feel them – in essence it’s the same for me.
My kids grew up as third culture kids and we only moved back ‘home’ a few years ago. While they have adjusted perfectly fine in their new (my old) residence country, they are indeed global nomads and global citizens. While this is great as they can quite easily adjust to new environments and challenges, it also is hard on them sometimes. They miss diversity and sometimes feel not or mis-understood when they tell their friends about experiences they had, trips they took, or foods they like and miss.
But how can I best support my kids (i.e., why am I telling you about this):
I listen to them and don’t blame them to request ‘crazy’ things like trips to far-away places and expensive food on ‘normal’ days (like sashimi for dinner on a weekday). They are not spoiled or ungrateful. On the contrary, they appreciate and miss what they had experienced.
I treat them once in a while to something exotic; we prepare special foods at home (they might even love to help cooking) or organize a movie night or virtual trip to an ‘exotic’ place.
I talk to them about how not all their friends have travelled or experienced different cultures. I encourage them to share stories but not to brag about their adventures.
I discuss differing habits and ways in different places with them – politics and fairness can be a topic as can social norms and different senses of humor. This helps them understand their thought processes better and clarifies confusion they sometimes feel.
There are many ways to support my children in their new environment, to make them feel more at home and many opportunities to explain why people think differently and what benefit it is to understand different mindsets. Seeing my kids adjust also helps me to admit what I miss and makes my personal settling in easier. And sometimes… we just dream about times past and places we visited together – which is lots of fun and bonding time!
If you are an expat and are settling into a new location or if you have returned home after some time abroad (alone or with your kids) and would like to talk about challenges or require some support, please get in touch. We have been there!