Thursday, 13 October 2011

Support, advice, mentorship

Many of you reading this blog are familiar with Expat Life. Expats are those who live outside of their country of birth and/or their passport country and tend to have with transient, nomadic lives. What you may not think as much about is how your life compares to those who do not live such a transient lifestyle. Let’s look at these two groups, referring to them as Non-Expats and Expats.

Kids growing up in a monocultural environment (i.e., Non-Expats) are individuals who may live in the same house on the same street in the same community their entire lives. As a result, they tend to have different access to support than kids who grow up as Expats. Non-Expats tend to grow up with community access. They usually know some of their neighbours, and they are often involved in community sports, music, art, or other related commitments. Many attend a neighbourhood place of worship (church, synagogue, mosque, etc.). These children are very likely to attend the same school, growing up with a stable and constant peer group and being supported by teachers who watch them grow up in the school environment. These constants, or anchors, expose Non-Expat children to people who know them, who look out for them, who care about them and who are there for them. Non-Expats often have access to friends of the family, the extended family, neighbours, teachers, parents of friends, religious representatives (priests, etc.), and other people in their community  whom they can go to when they feel the need to talk, when they seek advice, when they need support, or when they have a problem. Their circles are bigger than just the nuclear family. Non-Expats have access to a community of support in times of need.

As many of you know, Expats grow up moving from one country to the next. With every move they are most often confronted by change, lots and lots of change. Expat kids need to learn to be adaptable to change in order to survive, in order to thrive. Their access to support changes each time they move. Building relationships with people they feel comfortable and confident with to ask for support when they need it takes time. When an average stay in a country is 3-4 years, sometimes they do not have the time they need to build and develop trusting relationships.

Where can Expat Teens go for the support they need? Who can they go to to ask for help? “Expat Teens Talk” is one resource that will soon be available for Expat Teens, Expat Parents and Expat Professionals. This resource aims to recognize the challenges that come with being a teenager and being an Expat. “Expat Teens Talk” is a book full of stories written by Expat Teens around the world who shared their challenges, their difficulties, their fears, and their stories. In return for their submissions, groups of Expat Peers, Expat Parents and Expat Professionals have responded, providing support, solutions and advice for the Expat Teen who needs it. In the meantime, TALK to us and let us know what’s on your mind…

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