Despite the benefits of raising a family abroad, parents and children alike take time to settle into their new life. However, the challenge can bring families closer together, according to new data.
Almost half of expat parents say their children take longer than six months to feel at home in their new country, with 25% saying they take more than a year, according to the HSBC Expat Explorer survey. South African parents find the adjustment even more difficult, with 67% taking longer than six months to feel at home and 49% taking more than a year.
Settling into life abroad comes with special challenges, especially for children leaving friendships and school behind. Parents of older children (aged 11 to 16) say settling into a new school is particularly difficult, with more than half highlighting it as a major hurdle.
Parents report that missing family and friends is the biggest challenge for children across all ages. Half of expat parents say missing friends and family is one of their children’s top three challenges. Other difficult experiences for children include making new friends and understanding the new language.
Raising a family abroad also presents financial problems for parents. Sixty two per cent of expat parents find the overall cost of raising children abroad more expensive than at home, with 58% saying the cost of childcare in particular is more expensive.
In the long term, however, this may be money well spent as the majority of parents say life as an expat has had a positive effect on their family life and child’s lifestyle. Three in five expat parents say their children’s overall quality of life is better as a result of the move, while 27% rate it the same.
Indeed, the challenges families face in moving to a new country can help bring them closer together. Forty-six per cent of expat parents say that moving abroad has brought them closer to their children, with only 14% saying it has not, while 48% say that life abroad has brought them closer to their partner, with just 16% saying it has not.
The experience of growing up abroad also helps the wellbeing and development of children. Just under half of expat parents say their children’s health and wellbeing has benefited by moving abroad, while 69% find that their children are open to new cultures and experiences and 45% say that their child is a more well-rounded and confident individual.