Expat children are children first

13 February 2014, by
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Much has been written about raising children abroad, why they differ so much from all other children and why they’re so special. As it turns out, they aren’t.

I mean, of course they are special, but for reasons that are totally different to the fact of their being expats.

Our little world citizens are not special due to their multilingualism (although it is an important aspect) or the fact that they are raised in another culture, but because they are children. So here you have it: our little citizens of the world are simply children.

We all face the same challenges

What does that mean? It just means that they - and we as their parents - go through the same challenges as parents and children who are raised in one culture. We deal with temper tantrums, sicknesses, runny noses and a plethora of other child-related issues.

It also means that we love our children and try to choose the best for them without losing our sanity in the process. It means that we spend a lot of time with them. It means picking the best parenting method that works for our families.

And it means we face the same decisions that other parents do: how do we feed them? Where should they sleep? Will they go to daycare? Are we going back to work or not? The decisions are endless.

It also means that, just like other parents, we have the joy of watching them grow and learn and explore. We revel in the way our children laugh and the way they hug us with their little chubby arms.

We love to listen to them sing and tell us what they think about the world. And I can tell you that a three-year-old already knows a lot about the world!

Expat children in the Netherlands


A few specific difficulties do not make them different

Of course, there are things that are different or maybe more difficult for us. On top of the usual parenting issues, we are dealing with things like trying to teach them about our cultural identity, or help them speak our languages.

This means a lot of struggling with the majority culture and language. In the end, however, we are not so different. I think that as a mother writing about the challenges I’m facing raising multilingual children, I sometimes tend to forget that they are children first. They are funny, cute, adorable, clever and a million other awesome things. Sometimes they are annoying.

The challenge of children

Having children is amazing and exhausting, challenging and exhilarating, all at the same time. Never before did I find myself confronted with so many decisions. Never before have I found that my love can grow and encompass three little people.

Because, regardless of our children’s cultures, they are children. They play, they cry, they fight, they laugh. And just like every parent in every corner of the world, I hope that they will grow up to be good people.

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About the Author
Olga Mecking

A Polish woman living in the Netherlands with her German husband and three children. Trainer in inte...

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