Whether it’s your first move abroad or your fourth, it can be hard to
know where to start when it comes to supporting your expat kids. As parents, adjusting
to a whole new environment is rarely easy, let alone the exhausting months of
planning and organising it takes to get there. But as a young person still
finding their feet in the world, the challenges of relocating can become so
overwhelming that it can become a threat to their mental health.
Enter The Expat Kids Club. The EKC is a
psychology practice that specialises in supporting expat kids, teenagers and
their families. While based in Amsterdam, they provide therapy sessions both
locally and world-wide via video-chat with custom treatment plans tailored to
each individual child. For this week’s blog, we caught up with EKC’s founder
and psychologist, Kate Berger. Read the full Q&A below to find out more
about The Expat Kids Club and their advice on how you can support your kids
when on the move.
Why was The Expat Kids Club formed, and what is its goal?
EKC was formed when I discovered that there was an under-served
population in The Netherlands. I wanted to see if I could establish a practice
that would support expat kids so that they could feel empowered to make
positive contributions in their non-native environments (rather than having to
hide their immense strengths or be seen as a population that was a strain on
the social system).
The idea of calling it a “club” is so that kids can feel they
belong. Often, expat kids lack a sense of belongingness because they’ve
relocated and don’t have a real sense of “home”, so this way any
child that participates in the supportive services offered by The Expat Kids
Club can feel that they do so in the company of others just like them, and
therefore they belong! The practice started out with just me, and we’ve grown
to a team of 5 to date, serving the local expat community as well as offering
our services globally (via online consultation).
Talk us through your slogan, ‘Kids Have Many Pieces – We Help Them
We want to take into consideration all the aspects of Expat Kids. They
are complex not only because they are kids growing up in today’s world (!) but
also because of their vast life experiences. We want to make sure that there is
a place – and opportunity – for them to feel validated, so they have an
integrated understanding of themselves to be able to share with others in
healthy, happy ways.
In your experience, what are the most common challenges that expat
One of the biggest challenges we see is that the communication between a
child and parent is strained in the midst of a relocation because often parents
– with the very best intentions – get lost in the “doing-mode” of a
move and miss opportunities to really be present and connect with their child.
We are always encouraging parents to work on finding moments for (re)connection
during all of the chaos.
In addition, we see many kids struggle to form meaningful and lasting
relationships when they are living “between worlds” and therefore can have a
lot of stress/anxiety with regards to social environment. This definitely leads
to challenges in terms of finding a sense of belongingness and community which
is a big struggle for expat kids.
In general, would you say the challenges of relocation are more
difficult for older children and teenagers? If so, why?
Each age group has its own unique challenges when it comes to
relocation. Of course, teenagers are biologically programmed to focus more on
social acceptance and reciprocal relationships and therefore prioritise their
friendships over family-life so can find it particularly challenging to be
up-rooted and have to say goodbye to peers and re-establish these relationships
in a new setting. Older kids also start to wonder about their role in a family
and society. When they start to process the complexities that come from their
moving experiences, they can feel a bit lost or overwhelmed.
In general, younger kids can manage a relocation relatively well if
their primary caregivers and daily routines remain intact. However, there are
exceptions and we certainly get inquiries from families with very young
children who seem to be grieving the losses of life in their prior
You often talk about mindfulness on your platforms. What are the
benefits of practicing mindfulness for expat kids and teens in particular?
Mindfulness allows the opportunity to cultivate life skills that can be applicable
for coping with inherent stress that comes with relocation.
In addition – here’s my favourite part – expat kids develop skills from
their experiences (e.g., resilience, communication, etc.) that make them
uniquely qualified for leadership positions later in life. Mindfulness can help
kids develop capacities for compassion and empathy (for self and others) so if
you put these two aspects together what it (could, hopefully!) means that we
are supporting and encouraging our young people to become kind, empathic
leaders – and the world needs them!
Obviously, you’ll know that each family situation is unique. But do you
have any universal words of advice for parents whose children are struggling to
adapt to expat life?
Reach out for support. We find that when we talk about our work with
anyone, the stories come out. So many people don’t realize that they have a
chapter in their life story that is relevant to the relocation experience and
once they start talking, they can make sense of aspects of their life and
personality that they didn’t know had a place. For kids, helping them and
supporting them in connecting these pieces can mean avoiding challenges later
in life, and more importantly perhaps, enhancing their overall well-being and
positive contributions to the world around them.
Words of wisdom indeed! Sound like this could be helpful for your family? If you’d like to find out more about The Expat Kids Club and how they can help your child or teen adjust to life overseas, check out their Family Services section here.
My Online Schooling is an online learning platform that offers a flexible full-time English Curriculum-led education to children all over the world. We support home-educated pupils by providing live online lessons following a set syllabus, offering them the opportunity to receive iGCSE and A-Level qualifications that open doors to higher education. You can find out more about how we can support your expat child with their learning here.