While an international assignment can be a tremendous opportunity professionally, it’s not uncommon for employees to decline due to personal reasons. Statistics show that one-third of international assignment refusals happen because of family concerns. Of those that do accept the assignment, another third request to come home early for the same reason.
Your decision to relocate employees isn’t something that’s taken lightly, nor is their decision to pick up and leave a simple one. Facilitating a positive experience for the whole family, especially if there are children involved, is critical. Earlier this year, Hilldrup partnered with Expat Valley to host a webinar on the importance, and the responsibility employers have, of supporting thriving ecosystems for international children.
Here are some of the most common concerns and obstacles families face when relocating abroad, as well as ways employers can be of help before, during and after the move.
5 Common Concerns about Children Moving Overseas
There are notable exciting and enriching opportunities for families on an international assignment, but there also are some common hesitations when it comes to uprooting children. Your employees may be weighing some of the following areas:
- Health and safety: No matter where you’re living, you want your family to feel safe and equipped to manage their health. From living conditions and safe housing to access to health care and important vaccinations, these are all careful considerations when moving and it’s imperative your duty of care plan reflects this.
- Relationships: Moving to a new country can raise questions about how close your family remains with friends and extended family living back at home. When your child is used to having a certain aunt over all the time, or having the same three best friends at school, it can be difficult and isolating to start over and re-establish what these relationships look like while living abroad.
- Educational continuity: Maybe your child finally got in the rhythm at their old school. Finding a teacher they can relate to, fitting in academically and ensuring the best quality education available is a concern and crucial for their overall development.
- Cultural adjustment: No two countries are entirely alike. Whether it’s a change in language or customs and expressions, these are all adjustments that take time to learn. To form new bonds and feel like they belong, there are natural growing pains when children are fully immersed in a new culture.
- Identity development: During a time of immense change, children can lose their sense of self. For example, Expat Child Syndrome (ECS) is attributed to feelings of isolation, disorientation and a lack of identity. In trying to fit in and adapt, children are less in touch with their own needs, wants and personalities.
How to Prepare Children for International Relocation
While these concerns are all valid, they can be managed and mitigated with thorough preparation and support. There are a few steps each family will go through to pack up the life they have and prepare for a new journey— and here are some examples of how your company can play a supportive role from the beginning.
- Sharing the news. When parents tell their children of the decision to relocate internationally, they’re likely to be met with some fears and emotion. Companies can help prep this conversation by providing relevant assignment details, opportunities in the new country like schooling and activities, and the value of learning a new culture and language and meeting new people.
- Planning assignments. In addition to signing the dotted line to confirm an employee’s assignment details, there is also a mutual understanding that the family is affected by the decision. That’s why companies should consider introducing the “Children’s Assignment Letter.” This letter comes from HR at the organization (taking the onus off the parent) and provides an opportunity to show that there are others who understand how big and daunting this change can seem for a child. Explore what’s included in this template from Expat Valley.
- Packing and moving belongings. This is one of the more obvious ways your company can help families logistically move through the process. Ensure your relocation and moving partners are among the best in the industry (like Hilldrup), so that there is never any question that their belongings make it to their destination on time and in great condition.
- Getting proper vaccinations. Health and safety should be a number one priority for families during this precarious time. Companies can assist by providing a list of vaccines for their consideration, and this is a good time to talk to them about their health care insurance and how to use their plan.
- Saying goodbyes. From saying goodbyes to friends and family to quitting sports and after-school activities, this emotional final step is never easy. Again, this is an opportunity to equip parents with supportive language and a promise for new beginnings for the entire family.
Guiding Children through the Moving Process
Now that you’ve supported your employees with these delicate family conversations, it’s time for the big move. This can be a nerve-wracking time, especially for children who are new to navigating international travel. Your company can make this transitive time simpler for everyone.
The Travel Day
International travel from the United States is often a long and difficult endeavor for children, especially at a young age. Many young children might be new to or uncomfortable with security, flying or sitting still for long periods of time. It may also be an emotional time fresh from goodbyes. Companies can lift the burden off families and arrange niceties to ease points of stress. Examples include providing families with priority check-in, guaranteeing Wi-Fi on the plane, pre-checking luggage and helping the transit process for their belongings.
Culture shock is not uncommon. When a family first lands in a new country, there will be immediate impressions, and companies can step in to minimize feelings of discomfort or confusion. From arranging travel from the airport to playing a role in securing temporary housing, you want the family to feel settled, comfortable and safe as soon as possible.
Setting Children Up for Success Post-Move
Stability is key to ensuring children feel at ease in their new environment. While some things will take time to establish and nurture, preparations like securing a home and picking out schools and activities can make all the difference for children. There is natural loss when it comes to moving at such a large scale, but showing the family what they can gain is an opportunity for companies to support the transition.
As part of your relocation package, you should offer housing assistance and school placement. You can take it a step further by identifying sports clubs, activities, language learning opportunities and more to help families and their children become more acclimated.
Create a Happy Ecosystem for Your Expat Employees and Their Families
Helping families make the international move for your business is not only right for your bottom line, but also best practice for employee satisfaction, engagement and retention. Choosing to relocate is no easy decision or undertaking, and companies have an important role to play to make sure everyone involved, including children, feel supported and heard throughout the process.
Expat Valley believes that “international children and their families are part of an ecosystem surrounded by various types of organizations… Everyone benefits when these organizations consciously care for them, based on an understanding of how migration impacts these children’s lives.” Their philosophy can be a guiding compass for companies during international employee relocation.
Hilldrup provides international relocation services to streamline every step of the process. From move management and documentation to storage capabilities and the full spectrum of relocation considerations, our team is prepped and capable of any complex move. Contact us today for more information!