Leaving to teach overseas can negatively impact your relationship with parents and grandparents who question the soundness of your motives. Add grand kids to the mix and WATCH OUT! Feelings can intensify and confrontations are sure to escalate. And should the country you’re working in be featured on international news, your reasons for moving the children overseas are sure to come under additional intense scrutiny. Sometimes, family members get just plain mad—mad because you’ve taken away grandchildren and theoretically placed them at risk of alienation to their nation and family. Read more…
7 thoughts on “Guilt Trips From Home – Taking the Grand Kids Overseas”
We moved overseas with our son when he was 15. He was struggling in highschool in our home country of Canada – had some learning differences and was generally getting lost and falling through the cracks. At the highschool in Asia, he excelled because of his dedicated teachers, the small class sizes and a feeling that he was important – that his opinions mattered. When asked why he was successful at school in Asia, he explained that “In Canada, if you are smart, you don’t want anyone to know. In Asia, at my school, if you are NOT smart, you fake it until you make it.” He realized that with hard work he could succeed. He graduated with honours, was captain of most of the sports teams and spoke at a MUN conference. When he returned to Canada to attend university, he gravitated toward other international students, feeling most comfortable being around others who had lived in other places in the world and experienced “life” as he puts it. He’s struggled a bit, feeling lost in his own country, like he doesn’t quite fit, but he’s such a different person from the young boy that first moved away. His plans include getting a teaching degree so he can teach internationally. He’ll get there – because he knows what is waiting for him. HIs love of travel and experiencing new cultures seems deeply ingrained now. Moving overseas literally changed his life. It was one of the best decisions we could have made to help him succeed.
My two kids have grown up and been educated in several international schools. One is now in college in the USA and the other is in high school in China. The education they have received has been excellent. The teachers have overall been extremely competent and caring, class sizes have been small and facilities and resources have been second to none. They have attended sports tournaments in various countries in the region, helped built houses for Habitat for Humanity both in our host country and others, speak another language fluently and have friends from many different countries. Our family vacations have been in exotic locations others can only dream of.
My children both feel privileged to be Third Culture Kids and can’t imagine having grown up only in their ‘home’ country. They are truly global citizens who respect and appreciate diversity. Their lives have been enriched exponentially by their experiences living in several different countries.
As parents and educators we have been careful in our selection of teaching posts. We’ve only accepted contracts in non-profit schools that really are for international students and not just local rich kids, and I think this has made quite a difference to our children’s experiences overseas. As for college, our son looked carefully at colleges to make sure the one he attended had a mix of domestic and international students. His friends at university are mostly other third culture kids or international students. As a result, he has settled in well and hasn’t experienced any real difficulties repatriating to his ‘home’ culture.
Very informative post!!!!! Thanks for the insight. I’m excited to learn about the exotic places your family vacationed too, as this is a VERY important part of the TCK lifestyle. Many do not realize how these opportunities enrich your child’s life. What places have you taken your children to for vacation?
Thank you! We’ve had vacations all over Europe, the Middle East (Jordan is our favorite country there), Turkey, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Bali, Borneo, Hong Kong, Singapore, China where we live now … all of these trips have been possible as we’ve lived in the various regions so the flights have been relatively short and the cost reasonable.
I’ve raised my two kids abroad for 13 years, with an 8 year hiatus “back home”. One is now in her second year of university, and one has just entered high school, and this is what I’ve learned:
1) Pediatric psychologists and psychiatric services (and some other specialized services like RH neg blood transfusions if necessary) are not widely available in Asia even in countries with excellent medical facilities otherwise. There is still a strong stigma attached to depression or other mental illness, which made life extremely difficult for my daughter for many years. However, if there ARE facilities (a there are in the country where we now live) there are no delays getting appointments, as in our home country.
2) Skype has made contact with relatives as regular as it would be if we lived in our home country but not in the same town or region (which would be highly likely, given the current job situation).
3) There is a great difference between a faculty kid in a truly international school, where they are simply one of many different nationalities, and being one of only a handful of kids who are different because 99% of the students are from the host country. Some kids adapt well, others don’t, and it often depends on their age — the older they are, the more difficult it can be, with middle school seeming to be particularly tough.
4) The education my kids have received abroad has been OUTSTANDING, with AP programs, sports, MUN, service learning and opportunities for international travel they just wouldn’t have had at home. Another benefit has been the ALMOST total lack of drug, alcohol or teenage pregnancy issues that are VERY common back home. Of course they tend to be a little TOO sheltered, and my daughter has had some difficulties attending university at home because she doesn’t fit in, but she’s also unusually independent and mature, especially after volunteering for a year at an orphanage in Thailand before starting uni.
5) Being a faculty kid has definitely been an advantage on those occasions when I have had to ask for something from the admin, like a change of course, or an extended absence. Of course the downside/upside depending on who’s telling it, as for all teachers’ kids, is that mom/dad knows EVERYTHING that’s going on with a kid at school!
6) Facilities at the schools we’ve been (1:1 laptops, indoor pools, great libraries, projectors/smart boards in every classroom) have been WAY better than what is available at the local high school at home. Teachers have been, on the whole, better than those my kids had at home (although this may not be the case for all of course).
7) My kids have learned, at a very deep internal level, that the world is big, beautiful and varied, and there’s more than one way to do things/ think / look at something. They have learned humility and to celebrate, not just tolerate, differences. Their lives abroad have made them better human beings, and truly global citizens.
Excellent article and excellent reply. Cheers!
I never worked overseas with my own kids in tow but I did see countless other parents and staff trailing their kids after them. There were few problems, and certainly nothing more serious than what they’d face back home with their kids. Here are a few pluses and cons about working overseas with your kids along:
1) the local ex-pat and blended married couples(one ex-pat,one local) offer tremendous support for handling issues with kids…often better than your own family can offer and certainly more objectively.
2) the school often becomes, like back home, a centre for activities and social events that are varied, affordable or free and have that international spice, your home doesn’t.
3) the kids aren’t as exposed as often or as intensely to a culture of aggressiveness,bullying or violence that too many places back home provide.
4) having a mix of local and ex-pat teachers and support staff can provide the kids with an experience a more homogeneous back home school could provide.
5) The friendships made overseas will often last a lifetime whereas home friendships don’t always weather as well.
6) If a kid doesn’t like a teacher, there are more options available in terms of justifying and making a change of class than there are back home, as the admin. are more approachable and more empowered to make that change and there are no union issues to deal with.
Now some potential cons,
1)Some parents can really feel entitled and be very aggressive with the admin and staff at International schools, since the buck stops at the DG’s desk or the principals. I met quite a few ex-pat parents who thought they were the cats meow because they were North American or whatever.
2) Some kids get ultra-spoilt by parents feeling guilty and regretful over ¨dragging¨them overseas. This is counter-productive and often led to discipline and behavioural issues. Ex-pat and locals seemed equally prone to this.
3) some kids did react very badly to losing their friends and family ties by coming overseas and a few never really adjusted well. I saw quite a few runners at schools i worked in and it was disturbing.
4) Many North American schools are much bigger and better supplied and established longer than many International Schools which often cannot offer all optional courses, programs (AP,IB etc.) or support services since they are newer,smaller and more limited financially.
5) with the mobility of parents today, the risk of the kids having to move on with short notice is hard to live with. In one school I was in we had a 28% turnover rate in the first semester but we had a 35% new enrollment in the same period.
6) Because the average stay time for a teacher internationally is 2-3 years and can often be only 1, the staff turnover can be high. Back home it is not uncommon to see an educator spend 10-20 years at the same school. This predictability and continuity is lacking in many International settings and can contribute to a sense of permanent seasickness academically speaking , for the kids and staff alike.
While it is a difficult ask for many kids and parents to go overseas, it is usually a very positive experience and certainly a life educating one.