Family Transitions: Making the Move Abroad

Ron Drisner, Yew Chung International School of Beijing’s Head of Student Support Services

Ron Drisner, Yew Chung International School of Beijing’s Head of Student Support Services


With the arrival of summertime and school summer vacation comes relocation season for families beginning their Beijing journey. Moving an entire family abroad, no matter what the country, presents its own host of challenges, not least of which is cultural adaptation for both yourself and your children.

In an effort to support new families in comfortably settling into their new homes in BeijingYew Chung International School of Beijing’s Head of Student Support Services Ron Drisner, drawing on over 10 years of student counseling experience abroad, has offered a variety of useful advice and suggestions for newly relocated parents and their children. 

The first of a three part series, this piece will offer essential advice on how to take proper precautions to minimize the initial mental and emotional impact a cross-cultural move makes on both yourself and your family.


Emotional Adjustments

Adjusting to a move, especially an international one, can create a sense of loss of control for a lot of children, which stirs up a variety of emotions. Unfamiliar surroundings, language, foods and customs can lead to confusion, anxiety, and cultural stress not just for adults but also for children. A key sign of cultural stress is when someone’s emotional reaction is out of proportion to how they would usually handle a situation.


For example, a child might normally play nicely with their siblings and only have minor conflicts. However, if they start getting angry over what would usually be a small incident, this might be a sign of “cultural stress.” It is important to keep in mind that this is normal and even to be expected. Accurately identifying these signs is an important step in tackling cultural adjustment!


Setting the Proper Example


Parental support in assisting a child to adapt to a new culture is essential in helping create a sense of safety and security in a new environment with many unknowns.
By modeling openness and a willingness to learn from the experience of living in China, parents can set a ‘tone’ for their children. Children will follow their parent’s lead; if parents show cultural sensitivity and respect, children will have a similar attitude.
This will not only go a long way in helping children transition smoothly but will also further enrich their time abroad.


A Model Mobile Mindset

To promote a healthy attitude while living in China, Mr Drisner offers three key suggestions to keep in mind while here:

top-tips-for-moving-abroad-300x300Be Aware: As a family, realize that cultural stress is normal and that every family member reacts differently. Be understanding of these differences.  Also, help each other look at what a factor causes the most stress and look for possible solutions.

Be Open: Try to see that the host culture is a different but valid way of life. As a family, see the positives in it as well as what each of you can learn from it.

Take Breaks: Learning to interact in a new culture, especially initially, is exhausting. Make sure children regularly have a time to relax in a familiar way, whether by playing with toys, enjoying music, reading a good book, doing art, or going out with friends. These activities can go a long way in bringing everyone’s stress levels down.


Stay tuned for our next article on school and social adjustment and how to tackle these specific challenges abroad!

Article provided by Greg Eiselt, 施睿嘉, Marketing Officer of Yew Chung International School of Beijing

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I am living in China since 2007. I am sharing my experiences for other expatriates to make their stay in Beijing more enjoyable. As I am writing this blog for SCOUT Real Estate agency, I am also computing updates about the Real Estate market in Beijing, not only on residential properties, but as well on commercial locals and offices. Hope you enjoy your reading!