Raising Kid's Overseas

Posted by  | Monday, December 1, 2008  at 4:07 AM  
Since we are fairly new (2 years) to raising our children overseas I wanted to discuss the topic of transitioning to a new culture. Children love and really thrive on routine but when you sell most of what you own, pack up the rest, leave family and friends behind, fly across the world, land in a strange land with strange noises, smells and language…..well, that can kind of throw a routine “out the window!” So, needless to say there are some struggles when it comes to transitioning children to a new culture.

Our children were very excited when we landed in our new city and they stayed that way for about 2 weeks. The first two weeks were filled with the excitement of setting up our new home and almost felt like a long vacation for them. As soon as we started our language school, the children started their schools. Our oldest is in an American school, so she transitioned very well. Our younger two were enrolled in a local preschool. This preschool was called Honey Bunny and was a really cute place! It even had a trampoline and swimming pool! They were excited….the first day…then….crying, wailing, complaining, and more wailing! They would come home and say, “I don’t know what they are saying! I don’t like how they throw water on my face to wash it! I don’t like going to the bathroom and them spraying me with water on my bottom!” We were torn each day. It was tough…really tough. This went on for about 2 months. We then heard of a preschool that spoke only the local language (Arabic), didn’t look as nice as the first, had lots of broken toys, but had some great teachers who also taught Bible in Arabic. I was leery at first because of the sight of the place but we decided we would give it a try. At the same time we petitioned our friends and family back in the states to specifically pray for our younger two. Long story, short…they quickly came out of the “wailing” stage and adjusted to their new life very well….for several more months….then….Our oldest had her first taste of culture shock after a visit from a close friend. She screamed and cried, “We are done here! I want to go HOME! Please take me back!” It was tough…really tough..

That little run-through of just a few struggles of our transition to our new life are just a few of the things that needed our time, attention, patience and some serious prayin’! This is also where the “X Factor” came into play with our children. We define the “X Factor” as whatever it takes for each individual child to be healthy. Everyone responds to cross cultural living differently (even parents). A parent plays a big part in how the child responds to the culture (ie…being negative about the culture in front of them). Many times a parent’s excitement is not transferred to the child. Even though a parent may love the place and people, that love might not be transferred to the child. As parents we must be attentive to that. Here are a few examples of how we have dealt with each of our children to help them not only survive in their new culture, but thrive:

**not making one child out to be bad because he doesn’t like the new culture
**permission to not be kissed or pinched on the cheek…they can say, “no.”
**allowing them to voice to us how they are really feeling without criticism...they can share good, bad and ugly
**creating opportunities for social and recreational activities within the culture and also with other American friends
**encouraging them to try new things…think about new ideas….(you know, Americans aren’t ALWAYS right!:)
**creating a healthy spiritual and emotional environment at home…family devotion/prayer times
**changing our schedule when they need us….not all days are good…some are bad…our children need us in those times. We have learned to be not only flexible but fluid when it comes to meeting the needs of our kids.
**NOT being a negative voice in front of our children. This one is tough…it is so easy to spout off all that is wrong with our new culture…play the blame game…say little snide remarks about the people we came to love. Here are just a few verses from James that speak to the power of the tongue:
A small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.
Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!

Transitions can be tough and we have found that they don’t go away. It is just part of life and sometimes can seem magnified overseas. When we don’t know what to do, we just ask God for wisdom and trust that He is in control and has us (and our KIDS) right where He wants us.

BTW…We walked passed Honey Bunny this week and my younger two said, “I miss Honey Bunny! I wish we could go back!”….who would have thought! :):) Oh yeah, and both little ones now throw water on their own faces to wash them after eating!

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