Raising my kids abroad has had so many benefits that will propel and impact them their entire lives. Now I’m betting that my mother will be the first one to comment on this post, listing all of the heartaches she has suffered as a result of her grandchildren living overseas. So before she does, just let me point out that not being close to extended family is definitely a drawback to raising kids abroad. Now that I’ve got that out of the way, let’s walk through all of the amazing benefits.
Ever run into someone in the workplace or in other social settings and think, “This dude really didn’t grow up around anyone that was different than him.” Yes, well raising kids abroad in a culture that is different from your own teaches them to appreciate and respect different ethincities, cultures, and ways of life. Why is that? Well firstly, being a foreigner in another country, allows you to appreciate what it is like when people don’t appreciate your uniqueness. Kids learn first hand the importance of respecting differences, and have empathy towards those who are different.
Secondly, if you are lucky enough to raise your kids in a country that is really diverse like Singapore, obviously that exposure to so many different cultures gives them a global perspective. When they are older and have interactions with people from other countries, they will already have some experiences with people from other countries under their belt.
What Did You Say?
Language skills are invaluable these days. You never know when you are going to be in a situation when you have to break out in Mandarin Chinese and show up strong! A benefit of raising kids abroad is that as they live in another country, they tend to pick up language skills. The younger they are, the easier it is for them to learn a new language. And there is so much information online about how to do this effectively. Whether you go with the immersion method or want a slower more formal learning environement, there even more indirect benefits to exposing your child to another language than simply the knowledge of speaking another language.
All of my children have at least a basic understanding of Chinese – and it has helped them make friends in China and Singapore, get better grades in other language classes , and fostered their linguistic growth.
The Sky is the Limit
The final benefit I will list, even though I literally could write a book about the benefits of raising kids abroad, is that it introduces children to a world of endless possibilities that they would otherwise not have exposure to. What do I mean? Well, I grew up in a very small Connecticut town. Most people I knew growing up had never traveled internationally. As a matter of fact, the first time I even heard of the idea was in high school when a handful of classmates participated in a summer program in Spain. I had no interest in Spain, but at least their expereince showed me it was possible because they were my peers.
Fast forward to junior year in college, when I learned of an opportunity to teach English in CHina the idea wasn’t so scary. Why? Because I already knew people who had traveled abroad and so by then the idea of spending a summer in China, albeit another country, it wasn’t so overwhelming.
My children on the other hand have friends from India, Japan, China, Indonesia, Hong Kong – all of whom travel back home for holidays or sometimes on a short trip with family. Not only are these kids going back and forth from Singapore to their home country, they also spend lots of time going to other destinations as well. Anyone who is an expat will tell you that international travel becomes commonplace after a while, and the thought of living in one place becomes strange. The exposure to such frequent international travel has shown my children that they can literally go anywhere and do anything – if they put their mind to it. They are able to pick up innovative ideas from any country and without hesitation apply those principles to their lives. This is a gift that they can use in any aspect of life, and I’m sure it will prove useful all the way into adulthood.
What’s a parent to do?
At the end of the day, deciding to move abroad is not a decision to take lightly. I could list endless benefits of raising kids abroad, but everyone’s personal situation is different. An international move requires the stars to align when it comes to finances, personal and professional life. But if you have children, love travel, and want your children to grow up as global citizens, raising kids abroad has benefits that will last a lifetime.