Even if you have lived overseas before, these worries will rear their ugly heads again when looking towards your next move. They are relevant even if you are planning to return to your home country.
In fact, I would say that these three particular concerns are foremost in many parents’ minds a good deal of the time, regardless of their expat status.
In no particular order, these three concerns are; education, safety and healthcare.
Making the ‘which school’ decision is possibly one of the hardest us parents have to go through. And it’s not just school-age children we worry about; selecting a kindergarten or nursery is just as traumatic for parents. We worry that if we pick ‘wrong’ school our child’s future will be ruined. It won’t be.
We agonise over the choice, or lack of choice, of schools; we worry that our child will be unhappy and won’t make friends; we fret that the education isn’t as good as it would be in ‘insert country here’, and we worry about foreign language immersion or not enough language immersion.
We’ll look into choosing a school overseas in more depth at a later date, but for now, all you can do is select the best school you have available near to where you will live. And be aware that it’s perfectly OK to change your ideals and your mind – I have had to, many times. And besides, children come to no harm by moving schools if you end up feeling you’ve made the wrong decision.
Safety and security in your new country
This concern will depend entirely upon which country you’re moving to. It’s perfectly possible to live securely and safely in a country with a ‘bad’ reputation. You need to do your research, speak to other residents of that country and take heed of the advice given to you.
Conversely, the opposite can happen. You can move to a very ‘safe’ country. We spent five years living in Tokyo, where Japanese children have to travel to school on their own from the age of six. This includes travelling independently on public transport. My daughter, naturally, wanted to follow their lead. We didn’t permit this, although she was give errands to run at a much younger age than we would possibly have allowed had we still been living in the UK. She went to the shops and the post office, involving crossing a major road.
She adored the independence and trust given to her, but was confused when we moved to Berlin where such freedoms can’t be bestowed. This is not to say Berlin is necessarily less ‘safe’ than Tokyo, but our location means similar errands require driving a car!
Sort out a good healthcare plan and medical insurance before you move and check what health services are available to you in that particular country. Healthcare systems vary from country to country and might not include services you have come to expect from your current structure.
If you or your child has an existing condition requiring regular medical care, ensure that you plan even more than most people would. You need to ascertain that your medication is supplied, or even permitted, in your new country. Talk to your doctor in plenty of time in case you need to change your medication; better to do that on familiar territory than in a new country.
Perhaps I should add here that your concerns will change as your child grows up. Worrying about which kindergarten to put your child in to will pale into insignificance as your child gets older. Then you will be confronted by anxieties such as how much freedom will your teenager be allowed? How will they fare at exam time? Will they get in with the ‘wrong crowd’? I won’t go on…
These are exactly the same concerns all parents have, regardless of the country they live in. Your worries cannot be taken away, as they are valid, but perhaps in voicing those anxieties, you can help alleviate them in some way.
And accept that continuous worry is a fact of parenthood!