It’s worth noting that research in the area of Mobility and International Relocation shows that one of the major reasons for early repatriation is the overwhelming challenge for family members to adapt to new conditions. Global Mobility professionals estimate that the two top critical challenges to overcome in international assignments are the family adjustment (which 91% estimated as highly important) and children’s education (82%) according to the 2015 Brookfield Global Mobility Report.
Whereas the expatriate remains in the same organization, works similar hours and holds a position in a similar environment, the adaptation required of the rest of the accompanying family is much greater. New schools, new community, a new language and new routines mean that relocating children are often confronted with major hurdles to overcome. Family concerns are cited as the most common reason for assignment candidates to refuse the offer to relocate. Additionally, the decision for an international move is often made without input from younger family members. This leaves them frustrated and with a feeling of loss of control and freedom in their lives that they have to remain abroad. Offering them a one-day training session that focuses on their needs can be an excellent pathway to mitigate these feelings.
Our Michigan-based trainer Angelica Kandow notes: “It has been my experience, in these fifteen years of training kids, that at the end of the day there is always a change of heart. [Children who attend a training] love to learn about this great community of kids that they are part of now called Third Culture Kids. At the end of the training, they are looking forward to moving abroad, or making it work if they are already with their family on assignment.”
Our specifically-designed training sessions for children from 5 to 18 years old have been well received. Our educated kids’ trainers often have experience relocating with children themselves or are themselves Adult Third Culture Kids (ATCK). The training sessions are held within the comfort of the child’s home, without parental supervision. This set-up gives children the space to voice concerns, frustrations and open up about their feelings to an experienced external listener.
Our Russian trainer Yulia Carson tells this success story from one of her training encounters: “Two years ago I worked with a lovely girl named Emma from a small town in Illinois… a good student, athletic and popular. I prepared her and her brother for their relocation to Moscow, Russia. I thought: Wow! This was going to be a 360-degree shift in these kids’ lives. The training was challenging for Emma, it brought out a very emotional reaction as if the bubble of denial suddenly burst and the reality of the move just kept overwhelming her. We had to stop several times, so Emma could catch her breath and find the emotional strength to continue the session.
“However, despite the setbacks, she did not give up and I did not give up. We kept going, module after module and Emma kept asking her questions while wiping off the tears. A year later I had a chance to visit with Emma’s family in Moscow. We spent a whole evening catching up and debriefing on the family’s time in Russia. To the parents’ and my own astonishment, in the end, it was Emma who truly embraced the Moscow experience. Over the course of one year, she learned Russian, built a strong circle of friends at her international school, and at that point was working off her own bucket list of things to do and see in the time remaining.”
It is stories like Emma’s that demonstrate the value of preparation and cross-cultural training. Countless examples have been collected over the years of how children were able to relate their experiences abroad thanks to the training they first received. Susan Salzbrenner, a trainer based in France, said, “I was in the very fortunate situation to meet a TCK from England twice during his years abroad. I trained Ben as a 10-year-old boy going to Dubai. It was his first time leaving his English hometown and the relocation overwhelmed him. We talked a lot about his perceptions of an international life. When I met him seven years later in Italy, he had grown into a mature global citizen, able to question and value his international experiences and global mindset. It was a very unique opportunity for me as a trainer to follow someone’s development.”
Parents often worry more about the adaptation of their children than their own. There are plenty of resources available for parents of TCKs to tap into, including Aperian Global’s own Resource Guide for Relocating Families, available upon request. But nothing beats the opportunity for parents to have a trained professional spend quality time with their children before an international relocation. As Angelica notes: “I always emphasize the benefits of being a TCK; becoming bilingual, bicultural, flexible, adaptable, and eventually developing leadership qualities… all of these were my experiences as an exchange student in the USA. Being a TCK will influence their career choices, help them become global citizens, and eventually experience a migratory urgency that will be a positive quality to have.”