I have been living and raising my children in Japan for the last few years. Some of the things that I like about raising my children here is the access you have to an excellent healthcare system, the safe and peaceful community, and the opportunity to learn another language. However, raising children in a foreign country comes with a unique set of challenges and worries. I believe it is important to discuss some of these concerns and worries so that other parents know that they are not alone. So, let’s talk about some.
Your Child’s Education
Formal schooling is a fundamental part of our children’s lives. The type of education they receive may impact the way they think, their behaviour, and the way they see themselves. As a parent, you want to offer your child the education you think is best. When children begin formal education in a foreign country that is different from what we are used to, we worry. You wonder whether you are doing the right thing for your child and whether the teaching style and curriculum meet your child’s emotional and academic needs.
So, what can you do? Research the education system, speak to other parents who have been through the process, form relationships with other parents, and supplement your child’s education where you think it is lacking.
The Traditions and Values Your Child Will Have Follow
When you live in a foreign country, the tradition, values, manners may be different from those in your home country. You may want to raise your child the way you were raised because you believe those traditions or values are a part of your identity; therefore, you want to pass them on to your child.
If your child is of school age, they will spend a lot of their awake time away from you during the week. Their relationship with friends and teachers is important. They will adapt what they see and will be influenced by what is around them. We can try teaching them about their heritage and culture and hope that they will follow it, but ultimately, we have to respect what they like.
If Your Child Will Be Bullied or Discriminated Against
This worry was one I thought about constantly. Will my child be bullied? How will he deal with it? Will he fit in? Will he make friends? We know that people are often afraid of what they see as not normal, and sometimes, children from multicultural families may be viewed that way. In Japan, there are several cases of children from expat or intercultural families being bullied due to their appearance or for having non-Japanese families.
So, what can we do about that? We can talk about discrimination and teach our children to be resilient and love themselves.
Your Child’s Language Skills
Parents in intercultural relationships or immigrant families living in countries with a different language may worry if their children will understand their parent’s native language. You may wonder if your child will be able to communicate with your parents and relatives back home. Will they be able to communicate without your support when they visit your home country? Can they read in that language? These are some of the concern that you may have.
If those things are important to you, then you may want to expose your child to the target language. Talk to them, use media in the minority language, send them to classes, or find other families to spend time with that speak the desired language.
Your Child’s Identity
You may worry about the identity your child develops. Will they want to identify with your culture? Will they struggle to find an identity? Will they be confident in who they are? While we can help our children learn and discover their identities, we must let them choose what and how they want to be identified.
Your Child Not Being Able to Develop Relationships with Your Side of the Family
When you are raising children in a foreign country, your child may not get to see relatives very much or develop a strong relationship with them. You may have grown up having a wonderful relationship with your grandparents and would love that for your child. While I am lucky that my children get to see and have a relationship with their grandparents on their father’s side, I feel guilty that my mother is left out. We talk on the phone, but it hard for a young child to spend a long time talking and maintain the relationship that we want them to have.
There are many more concerns I could get into, but I will stop here for today. Raising children in a foreign country will make you appreciate your culture, push you to be intentional with your parenting, and expose you to another way of life that offers new and positive perspectives on child-rearing. The worries and concerns will be there, but we can find support from other parents experiencing the same thing and by reading blogs like mine. In the end, choosing to raise my children abroad is something I would do over and over again.