By: Angie Weinberger, Master of Global Mobility and Chase Eskelsen, Master of Education
This year, once again, we have found that technology is improving by leaps and bounds for people all over the world. Over the last couple of decades, we’ve seen shifts in transportation and communication that drove many families to live, work, move, and decide to be different from their parents. Comparing the 20-year period from 1950 through 1969 to the years 2000-2019 shows that much has changed.
Those families in the 50s show the father waking up, going to work, coming home, eating dinner, and then going to bed while the mother was the home keeper whose main focus was laundry, cleaning, and homework help is quite different than the last twenty years. In the 2000s both parents worked in many instances. Now, neither parent works for the same company, on the same desk, doing the same thing until retirement. Transportation and communication improvements have caused seismic shifts in reducing the size of the world and opening new possibilities for families to think globally.
This year, communication took another giant leap by forcing people all around the world to work remotely. Zoom replaced conference rooms, phone calls replaced water cooler talk, and families were under one roof all day and all night. Because of this, the family expatriation process will also look different in the coming years.
The “family” as defined by western companies was created to express the example of the 1950s family where the father worked, the mother was the home keeper, the children went to school, and the family pet was ready for some loving pets at the end of each day. While this format of family works for some families, the truth is, society, business, and the world are changing. For the many families who opt for a different lifestyle than the fifties, it is time to push for inclusion of the many diverse situations and include those folks in the global mobility conversation.
So, whether you are new to Global Mobility – or you are just planning around “new normal” of increased communication and changing mobility landscape of future years, consider these significant areas for your expat family’s consideration:
Family success is a team sport. There are plenty of spots available on the roster. The wisdom of the old, African proverb rings truer today than ever, “If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together.” In the world of mobility, going together will always ensure your personal family (whatever that looks like) goals are met. Think about it this way, each family is operating a sailboat together. Family goals succeed when each member of the family adopts the other’s goals as their own. The working adult (or adults) must consider the mental, emotional, and physical desires of their partner as their own personal goals. The adults should consider the desires of the dependents. The more that the family team considers and wants to support each other, and even distributes the plans, goals, and wishes of all family members, the most likely the family unit is to succeed long term–especially when troubled times occur in their lives.
A perfect example of this is to consider the entire family in a sailboat. Everyone has a job or task to complete throughout different stages of the journey. With the family aligned on goals, the direction of the boat stays true and the responsibilities can be shared to reach a common goal.
Find a new school for the children. Start with the questions, “Does the family select a local school or an international brick and mortar school?” “How about a digital education solution like American Virtual Academy that has a full time option or several hybrid locations around the world?” Consider some of the benefits of digital international school options that solve the problem of the negative academic impact of family mobility. Oftentimes when a family moves, the academic integrity of a specific course or the entire school experience is interrupted, and it can take an entire year or more to get that child back on track.
Picking a full-time digital school prior to making the move can prevent that from happening. The student will move to the new location, but maintain the same teacher, same curriculum, same student body, and same daily structure. Just like communication improved in the workforce, advancements in technology can assist during these mobile situations. Students can still get a great education. Just don’t conflate the emergency distance learning seen in 2020 with a great digital solution that was literally built from the ground up over 20 years of experience. Those two things are not the same.
- The idea of family needs to be more inclusive. As we’ve already mentioned, the family unit looks different today than it did years ago. Considering the huge shift we’ve seen in population growth and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth skewing towards China and India, many mobile families now include additional family members. Their goals and social-emotional wellbeing must be included in the planning and efforts exerted by the family as a whole. This may include aging parents, aunts and uncles, and many more. From a company or corporation perspective, there will have to be another shift in mobility planning to consider additional ideas around a mobile family. From a human resources and Global Mobility policy perspective, a “family” will need to be modernized to “a pattern of people living closely together” to include the many diverse situations and ensure that they are all included in the mobile opportunities well into the future. As we mention in other posts on the topic we wish to support all kinds of families in order to help minorities in the expatriation process.
- Everyone deals with stress in their own unique ways. Understanding how all members of the family will act and react in certain situations needs to be something considered and planned for prior to moving to a new location. It’s the job of the rest of the family to be the necessary support structure for each other. Just like no one in every family will act and react to each other, the response to help each family member needs to be personalized to their specific needs and support structures.
This starts with meaningful conversations in advance of changes as well as frequent deep conversations during difficult times. Just talking isn’t enough. These conversations must get to the heart of any problems or potential problems and be focused on working through problems and finding solutions that keep the family, and its individual members contributing to the success of the group. Ultimately, this is a lot of work, but it will be worth it if it keeps the family firing on all cylinders together.
- Creating a consistent schedule becomes a pivotal task. This is best done prior to leaving but can be implemented at any stage the mobile families find themselves in–the key is simply, do it. Just like the world is getting smaller from a transportation perspective, many families find themselves coming and going from their home base. Allowing a common calendar or schedule to be in place helps everyone know where others will be on any given day and time.
Additionally, scheduling out the daily tasks provides a one-stop location showcasing the family’s values. If the family values time together, it must be evident in the calendar. Education is a key component for the children? Show the time dedicated to homework, projects, and study time. Exercise is a core value? Where is the time dedicated to running, team sports, or long walks? How about the arts? Does the family find a benefit in learning a new instrument or painting? Where is the time dedicated to those tasks? Learning the local language? Show the time held both for language classes and personal study time.
Don’t forget socialization (especially in 2020)! External advice from therapists and coaches, especially in relation to cultural adjustment, relate that symptoms of a lack of socialization are often hard to differentiate from depression. Make time to decompress, let your mind process all of the changes, frustrations, and new ideas. Schedule that time in a way that supports the mental needs of each member of the family.
When your new schedule is built, compare it to your old schedule. Do the core values stand out? Did you forget anything you used to do and wish to continue doing? Did everyone get a say in what is added? What about the new things that need to be added that didn’t use to be there?
- Make the task of building the home a together project. For the foreseeable future, every move is likely to include a strict quarantine process (as already seen in Singapore and Hong Kong). Use this time effectively to build out the home–not just the house. A house is a location that you decorate, a home is somewhere you want to be with those you love. There will be some things you need to buy in the country and there will be items you bring from your last home.
Consider the new places you’ll visit that must now replace your old spots. Where will you get your groceries? Can you purchase the same items you used to buy? What about finding a new place of worship? Do they offer services in your preferred language? What restaurants are nearby and serve food your family will enjoy?
Take the appropriate amount of time to research what is culturally appropriate in the new location. Things that the family may have participated back in their home country may not be appropriate in public spaces in the new host country. Some countries do not allow alcohol consumption in public places. Others do not allow mixed swimming in public. Some countries find it rude to show the bottoms of your shoes. The new appropriate may not match what you are used to, but make sure the family has done the ample research and is ready for success in diving into the new culture.As you can see moving a family to another country is a team sport that will require that everyone on the team pulls their weight.
DOWNLOAD our free checklist for identifying the right international school for your children from here….
Chase Eskelsen began his educational career as an administrator of the Texas Virtual Academy (grades K-12) where he focused school turnaround resulting in a “Met Standard” rating during his second year in the position. He then helped launch a new school, Texas Online Preparatory Academy (grades K-12). Several years later, he transitioned into a National Academic Policy and Public Affairs role with K12 Inc and finished his time with K12 as the National Director of Board and Partner Relations.
He now leads an education non-profit, Verano Learning Partners. The Verano team has been tasked by their board to launch new and innovative school models and they are currently opening new schools worldwide. Mr. Eskelsen has his Master’s in School Administration and wrote his thesis around the topic of Education Policy for Virtual School Programs. He can be reached via email at [email protected].
Angie Weinberger is the Global Mobility Coach. She coaches Expats, Expats Spouses and Global Mobility Managers through her programs RockMe!, HireMe! and FlyMe!.
Angie always worked in International Human Resources specializing in Global Mobility in Germany and Switzerland. In 2012 she founded Global People Transitions GmbH, a coaching and training company for GM professionals, expats and their spouses. Angie is the author of ‘The Global Career Workbook’, a self-help career guide for internationally mobile professionals and ‘The Global Mobility Workbook’. She is a recognized consultant and lecturer in Global Mobility and Intercultural Management.
Angie Weinberger became a coach in 2010. In 2018 she was certified as a seminar leader for group coaching according to the Boudewijn Vermeulen® method by Dr. Eva Kinast. In 2020, Angie became a licensed “Adapt and Succeed “ Practitioner by Sundae Schneider Bean. Subscribe to her blog via https://globalpeopletransitions.com/become-a-reader-of-the-global-people-club-sandwich/