The first time Brett asked my thoughts about a possible move to Bangkok, I quickly responded (and when I say quickly responded, I mean I didn’t even have to think about my answer, and may have actually laughed out loud), “no, the boys are too settled here in Shanghai”. The second time he asked I responded the same way. By the fifth time, I began to really ponder the possibility. Perhaps because I realized he was never going to give up asking. 😉 But really, the more I thought about it, the less crazy sounding it became.
Sure, the boys were settled. We all were. Shanghai was where we had been living for two and a half years. In ex-pat time, that’s forever. But really, Shanghai was home. Things were comfortable. The boys were involved, and life was pretty good. So I thought and thought about why in the world we would uproot them again if we didn’t have to. But believe it or not, the more I thought about it my hesitation began to fade away.
I realized that although they were involved, their actives were not anything they couldn’t continue in Bangkok. They did have one or two good friends, but the reality is, Bangkok isn’t really that far from Shanghai so it would be easy for friends to come to visit if the boys needed a little pick-me-up. Also, our new assignment would only be for another 2 or 3 years which would be a great opportunity for them to once again experience a new part of the world. By this time, I was convinced that a move would be good for them and lo and behold, everything came together and it happened! Needless to say, that’s making a VERY long story short.
Thankfully, adjusting to life in Bangkok has gone relatively smoothly for the boys. I’m incredibly thankful they are willing to bloom where they are planted. As we’ve been settling into our new lives, I’ve proudly observed their adjustment, and am now convinced there are many benefits to kids who live abroad not only once, but multiple times. Here are just a few:
1. They learn the art of adapting to any situation.
I’ll admit, the older I get, the more set in my ways I become. For the most part, I know what I like and tend to stick to it. Give me a Grande Caramel Frappuccino from Starbucks and I’m happy. Bring me a Green Tea Frappuccino and that thing’s going in the trash as quickly as possible. I’m sure many of you are the same way. However, living abroad removes you from your comfort zone and forces you to adapt to many new things. People who are exposed to more new situations when they’re young are likely to be more easygoing and adaptable when they are older. Who knows, they may even develop a love for two or three different kinds of Frappuccinos!
2. They are becoming braver.
Do you remember your first day of high school? If you were like me, you planned out the outfit you would wear a week in advance, and when the day finally arrived you were terrified. What if you didn’t have anyone to sit with at lunch? What if you went to the wrong class? What if you had a big booger hanging out of your nose all day? My boys have faced these kinds of scary situations time and time again while adjusting to their new country. I watch them resign themselves to the fact that they are going to go into a new situation, head held high looking confident, even though I know they are terrified inside. It makes me so proud. Situations like these aren’t easy and at home, they would be few and far between. But they learned from our time in Shanghai the braver they are and the quicker they get the first time of anything over, the faster they’ll adjust and become comfortable. Before we moved abroad the first time, Jack (who was 9 at the time) was afraid of everything. He wouldn’t even be in a room by himself. In Shanghai, he gained confidence by trying new things and meeting new friends. Now in Bangkok, he began riding his bike to school by himself the first chance he got, among many other things he is now willing to try and do. If we never broke out of our comfort zone at home, he wouldn’t have had to become more brave and would probably still be afraid of everything.
3. They get to really experience a new country.
Vacationing to different countries around the world is amazing! It’s such a blessing to see different parts of this beautiful world and experience different ways of life. However, you are still on vacation and the visit is for a limited amount of time. You can only skim the surface of the place you are visiting. When you live in a new country, you immerse yourself in the culture, and truly learn how it’s people live. This provides an invaluable broader understanding of the world. I’ve watched our boys become more tolerant of people who live differently; not only locals but other ex-pats from around the world as well. Their world has become bigger, and their lives have become richer and more well-rounded as a result.
4. They are given the chance to reinvent themselves.
Now I’m not saying my kid’s needed to reinvent themselves, although I would like them to listen to me more (haha!), but moving abroad again gave them an opportunity to step back, take a look at things they had been involved in, the type of friends they had, and how they chose to spend their time. For example, in Shanghai, Elijah was very involved in choir and drama. When we moved to Bangkok, he decided he wanted to give volleyball a try. Now he is on his new school’s volleyball team and loves it. I doubt he would have switched gears so to speak if we stayed in Shanghai. Things were comfortable and he was on a certain path. Let’s be honest, it’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to reinvent yourself. Not many people will ever have the chance to do this.
5. They realize the importance of family.
When I say this, I’m referring mainly to our two boys that have moved overseas with us. For Autumn and Hunter, our older two still living in the States, Shanghai or Bangkok is not much different. Meaning, because both locations are on the other side of the world from them, we are very far away in either place. But for Elijah and Jack, we now know that for the first few weeks after a move, we really only have each other. We are strangers in a strange land, don’t know anyone, are clueless as to what we are doing, and lean heavily upon each other as we adjust. Even once we were settled in Shanghai, our reliance upon each other remained stronger. We were never as close when we lived back home. In a way, we didn’t need each other as much. We had a tendency to live separately under one roof if that makes sense. As a mom, I relish the comfort my boys take in our home life. Although we may not have any of our furniture or reminders of home in the beginning, we manage to find the comforts of home in each other. It’s even more meaningful for me as a mom of teenagers who usually stay as far away from us parents as humanly possible.
I know I’ve had a lot to say on this topic but it’s because I have become a firm believer in the value of children living abroad once, twice, or more. They grow so much braver, adapt to life better, become tougher, and learn that the world is so much bigger than their own backyard. It’s true that every day hasn’t been sunshine and lollipops. We’ve had some tears and tough days (mostly on my end ;)), but overall the boys have adjusted incredibly well…even easier than the first time.
If you’re like I was and your children are your first concern when considering a move abroad, take some time to really think it through before you laugh out loud at the idea. You will see the benefits will far outweigh the costs and giving them the opportunity to live abroad will be a benefit they carry with them for the rest of their lives.