Wherever you are in your journey right now, early in your global family adventure or longer into the experience, it takes a special kind of person to raise a global family. To be open to new cultures and experiences is to be vulnerable and exposed to things that we cannot always control. We can, however, control our willingness to learn from and with others. Here are six things I have learned working with global families for over 20 years:
1. Be open to learning with and from other families.
Most families do not have the amazingly rich and diverse learning opportunities that global families have. The best tip my mum gave me when I moved with our three-month-old son to Sudan was to commit time to observing and learning from and with other great parents across cultures and socio-economic groups.
2. Intentionally build and nurture your global support network.
Raising a family is tough wherever you are in the world but to try to do it without an extended family and friend network will be unnecessarily hard. Building and nurturing a face to face and virtual global cross-cultural and intergenerational caring and capable support network can be the difference between surviving and thriving overseas.
3. Get on the same page!
Exposure to a whole range of parenting styles can be especially tough for our children growing up among different cultures. All children need a consistent, safe, and supported base from parents, who are consistent in their parenting styles. This is especially important for global children who are potentially navigating an environment with lots of different carers with differing parenting styles.
4. Be creative.
The chances are you will not find a school that perfectly fits the personalized learning, social, emotional, and developmental needs of all your children with every international move. Sometimes we need to be creative and think outside the conventional learning environment to provide our kids with opportunities that schools may not be able to always provide us with, especially in more remote global locations.
5. Model attitudes and behaviors.
Regularly check the messages you are sending to your children in your attitudes and behaviors, especially towards a host or different cultural group. The families who openly, and repeatedly criticize an aspect of a different culture in front of their children will be modelling a behavior that children will take into school. This is likely to make it hard for children to develop healthy and happy cross-cultural relationships.
6. Learn with and from your children.
Often our global children are exposed to rich learning environments that are very different from those that we experienced as we were growing up. To learn with and from your children is probably one of the most exciting aspects of our global families.
These six take-aways may resonate with you as a global family, or you may have six take-aways of your own that are different. The key element I have found speaking and working with global families is the importance of constantly reflecting and learning from the one thing all global families seem to share: lives of constant change.
Natasha Winnard has come across many amazing young people in more than 20 years as an international educator, guidance and college counselor, and mentor in schools in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America. Natasha Winnard Consultancy provides holistic, personalized guidance for young people and their families looking for support in the world of international education.