Am I welcome in this world? Where do I belong?
One of our children’s deepest needs is to know they belong. This is especially true for expat children. Our children are growing up in a culture that is not familiar to them or us. They move with us around the world every few years.
Our young global nomads can spend a lot of time feeling different and feeling like they don’t fit in. It is our job to make sure they feel part of the life we have chosen. We are a team and we are in this together. They are an important part of our family.
Global nomads, do not expect to settle in a new country. They know their parents are not moving permanently, and are likely to move to a new location in a few years. This can increase the feeling of transience and lead to our kids questioning where they belong. It is therefore important to make sure your child knows they belong wherever you are. Wherever in the world you are living, they will always be home when they are with you. Home is not defined by four walls but is a place that exists wherever your family creates it.
There are lots of little ways we can be more aware of the needs of our special global nomads, and work towards creating the kind of home that meets their unique needs.
Take time to listen to your kids
It is important to listen to our kids. Take time each day to let them tell you their news. Bedtime can be a nice time to lay on the bed together and go over the good and bad of the day.
Do things together
Spend time preparing meals together, doing chores, and of course playing together. Install the sense of team into your household. We are all part of the same team and we help each other out.
Encourage your child to join in community events.
They could join a sports team, get involved in a musical group or other extra-curricular activity. A child needs to feel part of the bigger community. You might want to help even more by being a coach or team mum. If you usually attend a Church in your home country, try to join one abroad too. It will expand your social network and help your child to understand where they belong in the world.
Get involved in school activities.
It is important for parents to also get involved in the school. It helps your child know this is an important part of your family life. Join the parent association, volunteer at events and go along to meet the teacher days. If one parent is available to help out on school field trips, go along with your child. Make them feel important and special having a parent help out.
Get to know your neighbors.
Children need to feel part of their neighborhood. We sometimes forget the importance of neighbors when living in a foreign country. We enclose ourselves in our bubble and forget to reach out and say hello to those living closest to us. Encourage your child to play with the kids in the local park or play area. Head down to the nearest basketball court or field and throw a ball around with the other kids. Allow your child to invite the neighbors over to play sometimes. Get to know the parents too.
Spend time having some fun.
Make traditions and rituals that are important to your family. Maybe every Friday night is take away dinner night, or picnic in the living room night. Do you always have stories before bed? Can you make a new tradition like candle-lit dinners every Thursday?
Love them and let them know it.
Our kids need to know they are loved unconditionally. Let them know we love them, just the way they are.