Living outside one's home country comes with mixed feelings and a myriad of challenges. Nevertheless, it can turn out to be a wonderful experience. With your bags packed, off you go to a new location to live for one reason or the other.
When you get that exciting and life-changing news that you are going to become a parent, sometimes, it can remind you of your childhood experiences. This news might make you miss the home country that you grew up in. One way to bridge the gap is to have your family member(s) (e.g. mother) around to assist you with the nursing of the baby. And eventually, raising the child. But if that's not feasible, you can still pull through. All you need to do is to heed to Chesley Sullenberger words in Flight 1549, "brace up for impact".
Nursing your baby (raising your child) comes with its challenges, let alone doing it outside your comfort zone. My encouraging words are: don't freak out, brace up and get ready to do it. It is one job that you learn on the job no matter where you are. If you are away from 'home', here are 6 crucial things to consider when raising children outside your home country.
1. Prepare yourself
First, prepare yourself mentally. Believe in yourself. Challenge yourself that you will nurse and raise your child successfully. Draw inspiration from other parents who have done the same or are still doing it.
Second, prepare for imminent changes by sorting out things in advance. For example, prepare your house and make it child-friendly, stock up on your essential needs such as food and possibly have some pre-cooked/easy-to-make food handy, and so on. Watch out for our future article on 'How to prepare for the arrival of your baby'.
Third, don't forget to check the relevant policies and laws for children in your 'new' country of residence.
2. Connect with people that can support you
Raising a child can be a very challenging task. And if you are a single mum, it makes it even more challenging. Again, if your spouse works, you will be alone most times with the kids, and this is also quite challenging. Also, if you are from a culture where family and friends support parents with raising children, this type of support might be highly limited in your new country.
"First, prepare yourself mentally. Believe in yourself. Challenge yourself that you will nurse and raise your child successfully."
Social/moral support brings happiness, emotional balance and the strength which can help parents in raising their children. I would suggest that you find a way to connect with your family and friends. You can get some support over video and audio calls. I must say this can never replace their physical presence.
Try to connect with relevant communities where you live. For example, where I live, most kindergartens have new mother's clubs that meet once a week. Here, you meet other mums, and the children play together. Check out what is applicable in your location.
3. Appreciate the existing cultural differences
We were all raised in one culture or the other. This can significantly impact our perspectives. Raising your children between two cultures will give them an opportunity to have a more balanced outlook. Cultural differences can also be challenging to parents as some aspects of their cultures can be lost if the kids embrace the culture of the society that they were born.
Parents should know that they constitute the vast majority of their children's exposure to their culture(s). The sweet memories and rituals parents experienced while growing up should not be thrown away but upheld. Glean insights from those experiences and reject the barbaric ones (if any).
For example, while growing up, I remember some evenings where I sat in a circle with other children while our grandparents or older people told us folk tales. Activities such as cultural dances, special meals on special days, and so on may not be experienced by children raised outside where similar cultures were obtainable. If you had similar experiences, you could consider recreating some of these memories for your kids. You can visit your home country for them to experience a little bit of it.
Nevertheless, kids might not fully share in their parent's cultural background and beliefs - nothing to worry. Show appreciation to the good culture of whichever country that you are currently living in. Don't worry when your children align more to the culture of where they are raised. Don't forget your responsibility as a parent is to guide, observe, and provide balanced perspectives for them.
4. Acknowledge the language differences
Parents should understand that living in a new country can also bring difficulties in communication, especially where the mother tongue is different. Generally, how parents respond to language challenges can affect their kids too.
Understand that raising children in a country that speaks another language other than your mother tongue would require you to integrate by learning the language. This is not particular to language differences alone; there can be differences in nuances, idioms, and proverbs. But it can be fun if you see it in a positive light.
Learning a new language improves your brain functionality. You should encourage your children to learn and speak the local language/dialect. With this, they will undoubtedly get along with your new community far easier than otherwise.
As a parent, start learning the foreign language of your new country of residence as early as possible. Don't worry much about the kids. They will learn the language faster than you think.
Make friends and allow them to tutor you on their language and culture. In the end, it will be an overall advantage to you and your family.
Why you should be bothered about language: understanding the language of the country you're living in will enable you to have a good grasp of its parenting policy. With this, you will know how best to raise your kids in such an environment.
5. Learn to manage parent-related stress and guilt
It is possible to be stressed out as parents when raising children outside your home country for many reasons. One might be filled with guilt when thinking that their close family members might not know their kids. Or who the kids can turn to as a family? Would they be lonely because of these? With all these questions, one might be stressed out with raising kids in a foreign country with the rest of the extended family absent.
Learn to manage these worries and anxieties by trying your best to connect with your family members. Just know that everything will turn out well. Don't feel guilty and don't get stressed out.
6. Think of the opportunities your children might have
Take a look around you and take stock of the positive things that your kids can experience in your new country of residence. Focus on raising your kids to become the best they can be.
Expose them to a good education and lovely activities that will make life more enjoyable for them. You need to get them ready for better opportunities ahead of them.
Are there other things one might consider while raising your children outside one's home country? Let's discuss this in the comment section. Please feel free to share your experiences. Let's dazzle together!