They are the number one challenge cited at every stage of an international move. Will adequate schooling be available for the kids? What about your spouse's career? What if you can't seem to adjust to the new life?
Every generation has its own sets of expat advantages, and despite growing numbers of Gen Y and empty-nest assignees, the 40 to 49 year-old age group still accounts for 40 % of candidates. These are managers who have been with the company for a while, they know the culture and are very effective at their jobs. In other words, companies can't afford to lose them. They are established in their communities, the majority are married (70 %), and many are accompanied by their kids (47 %). In other words, the deal has to be pretty sweet for them to disrupt their family's lives.
To make sure that the relocation is in the best interest for your family, you need to honestly address the pros and cons of moving for you all at this point in time. There are risks involved even if the money you are being offered is tempting. Who can take care of your elderly relatives when you're away? What if you can't fly home for a funeral, because you're in the middle of getting your Visa and can't leave the country? How is your relationship with your spouse going right now, are you happy? Contemplating a trial separation? Please know that no move is going to miraculously solve marital issues, nor is it the antidote to depression or general boredom. Changing your surroundings only changes your surroundings, not the baggage you carry inside.
What else can you do to address family concerns?
Companies' support packages vary according to
- length of assignment,
- seniority of the expat, as well as
- the perceived hardship factor of the host country.
Some companies offer moving assistance, support in selling and/or renting the home, finding a new home on location, language classes, assistance with paperwork like visas and work permits. They might provide a daily living or one-time bonus relocation allowance, help with tax return preparation, private schooling for the kids, language classes and cross-cultural trainings. What you can do is be honest and talk with your spouse and family members about your expectations and concerns.
As you know, at Building the Life You Want we believe coaching is an effective way to bridge the gap between needed and already provided support. Without going into too much detail at this point, expat coaching can help your family make an informed decision before the move. Once you are on assignment, expat coaching can pick up where the cross-cultural training left off, providing effective assistance through the actual phases of culture shock as or if they occur, during the first 100 days in the new position and team, and as needed while the accompanying family adjusts to their new roles and surroundings.
Repatriation, or the end of an expatriation assignment, and its inherent challenges for the family often go overlooked. Here are a few voices on what challenges they have experienced upon repatriation:
I've repatriated before, so I'm pretty familiar with the experience. What would have helped is having someone outside the move as moral support through the entire transition (pre-during-post). Having not only support, but support from someone who knew both the 'before / after me' would have been valuable in easing the transition.
Be aware of the fact that the city/country you left behind, will not be the same city/country you will find upon your return. It is not simply slipping back into your old life, but adjusting to a, though familiar, now different life.
Missing friends you left behind. And having to build a new social circle in the city you used to live, which feels a little strange, since it feels like 'your' town.
However, the greatest concern was this:
Fitting in again.
The best way to overcome these family concerns at all stages of the relocation is to be aware of them without shying away, and to address them with a person you trust. This may be your coach, your mentor, someone from the expat organization, or your employee assistance program. As you discuss the move with your family, try to welcome every concern openly and without judgment. Family members will be going through different stages at different times, some need more support in adjusting than others. What is important - especially for accompanying children - is to know that all concerns are legitimate and can be addressed. Unspoken fears take on worse proportions, and the old adage holds true: a problem shared is a problem halved.
Your turn: what worked for you? Thank you for leaving comments!
Til next time, be well!