Tips to help older kids and teenagers adjust
According to Tory, “older kids and teenagers, being more attached to their previous culture, will have a more difficult time relocating. They still have the ability to adapt quicker than their parents to their new environment, but may be held back more by a strong connection to their old culture through social media.”
Some behaviour to keep an eye out for with older kids and teens include:
A lot of time on social media
“Teens love social media, but if a massive amount of time is spent looking at the lives of friends from their previous homes it can lead to depression, frustration, and anger as they see events they are missing out on and are familiar with.” The urge to maintain old bonds is strong but don’t let your child or teen disconnect from the exciting new world around them. They need to engage in reality, not just on Instagram and other social networks.
Continuous talk about "home" culture
Tory says, “It's OK to process the differences between the cultures, but constantly bringing up the ‘home’ culture can be dangerous, especially if negative comments about the current home are brought up regularly.” As your child renegotiates their identity to incorporate their new life abroad, there are bound to be comparisons between countries, and this will only intensify the more you move. What you want to look out for however, are negative judgements about a current country that inhibit your child’s curiosity and natural desire to get stuck into life.
Anger, bitterness, and separation
“Teens are moody, but excessive anger and bitterness can build up as a child is processing their new home and dealing with the differences,” warns Tory. “If a child begins to pull away and separate themselves from family and friends they can be in need of help.” This is a tricky trait to identify, especially with teenagers, who by nature are solitary beings. If your child or teen removes him or herself from most family gatherings, be it dinner or movie night, probe the behaviour more deeply. It could be a form of detachment brought on by the transition.
Inability to find community
“Community is important to feeling settled and belonging somewhere, if a child or teen refuses to get involved in a community at school, sports, church, etc this can lead to extreme loneliness and issues adjusting to the new culture.” Encourage your child to become involved in the things he or she enjoyed when living in your home country. Sport is universal and a great way to build a community.
Making friends at school can sometimes be challenging, (although expat kids are more accepting of new faces, having been new themselves numerous times), but sport and church communities are a great way to build your social circle. As with adults, making friends is vital and your child will find deeper happiness once their social network is up and running.
Increase in coping mechanisms
People find ways of coping with new situations. This may manifest in a variety of ways. Tory says, “look out for nail biting, cutting, excessive eating, gaming, playing with hair.” These are all coping mechanisms and could indicate that your child is having a hard time adjusting.