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13 Reasons Expat Children Thrive

Growing up abroad can be one of the most beneficial gifts a child can receive. It’s amazing how much children thrive when they realize their horizons are wider than a TV or game console screen.

Entering a new culture, learning a new language, and living a different lifestyle provide boundless opportunities for growth. The Latin Tropics offer many locations where families with youngsters can truly partake of the potential such a move can provide.

expat kids

Point Break Surf Costa Rica

13 Reasons Why Expat Children Thrive

When speaking about expats, the first image that often comes to mind is that of retirees or investors looking to find paradise beyond the boundaries of the U.S. However, with the growth of global markets, many young families with offspring are moving beyond borders to explore new vistas and opportunities.

One of the surprises of such a move is that these expat children not only adapt, but thrive, in their new surroundings. Below are 13 reasons why a move to paradise may be the most potent positive force in a child’s upbringing.

13. More Educational Choices

Expat children have a number of different schooling choices that can compete with (or surpass) a traditional U.S. upbringing. In this sense, education goes far beyond mere book learning.

Homeschooling is one option that also can strengthen family unity while providing learning. In areas with growing expat populations, local schools often will teach classes in English or provide opportunities to non-native speakers.

In many locations, international schools exist that instruct pupils in their first (or native) language. These institutions, while somewhat more expensive, offer wider curriculum choices and the chance to interact with other expat children both socially and during the learning process.

expat kids

Roderick Eime

12. Learning Adaptability 

Older expat children quickly discover that life in their new country is not the same as back in the States.  Learning how to adapt and take advantage of the opportunities their new country provides is an important life skill that will make the transition to adulthood less stressful.

11. Self-Reliance 

Being the “new kid” is a challenging task, whether in the U.S. or abroad. By learning to establish themselves in their new home, expat children build a sense of self-reliance that they can fit in anywhere in the world.

10. Growing Social Skills 

Children enjoy interactions and mastering new skills. Getting involved in local sports (Hint: Football is actually soccer!), attending local festivals and going on play dates with other expat children will all contribute to the growth of social skills that are so necessary in the modern day world.

9. Checking Their Materialism at the Door 

Being exposed to cultures that do not emphasize materialism can have a profound impact on expat children. Learning to appreciate what they have, and realizing that material goods are not the measure of happiness, can be a powerful lesson as they grow into adulthood.

expat kids

AFS USA

8. Learning a New Language 

Expat children have the advantage of being able to learn and use a second language on a daily basis. In the tropics, this second language is, most often, Spanish.

Communicating with locals in their own language makes immersing in local culture that much easier. With the number of Spanish speakers increasing in the U.S., this is a skill that will be in increasing demand in years to come.

7. Gaining an International Awareness 

One of the most important lessons that expat children learn, and which helps them thrive in the future, is that there is a world beyond the U.S. borders. It can be far too easy for those who never travel abroad to ignore the uniqueness of other parts of the globe.

Living in a foreign country adds an awareness of just how diverse societies are. For youngsters growing up in a foreign country, they become “world citizens” whose view of life is not limited by a single national identity. 

6. Stronger Family Ties 

As everyone adapts to their new life abroad, reliance on the family and appreciation of mutual support tends to strengthen the bonds between parents and children. This, after all, is a shared adventure, and knowing that they are not alone can make the transition to an expat child that much easier.

expat kids

AFS USA

5. Immersing in a New Culture

Instead of just reading about a new culture, expat children can actually become part of it firsthand. Participating in local events, celebrating local holidays, and sampling local foods are just some of the ways that young expats can immerse themselves in their new world.

Being part of a different culture is a profound experience that can provide a broader perspective on life in general that can carry on through adulthood. 

4. Seeing “Home” Through a Different Lens

One of the most important lessons that expat children can receive is the ability to see their native country from a different point of view. Being able to see “home” as others see it can offer a unique understanding of how we are viewed and, more importantly, how our actions can influence the perception that the rest of the world may have of expats.

nosara costa rica

Viva Tropical

3. Living in a Special Place

Expat children quickly learn that their new country is truly special in its own way. The overall essence of their location can captivate their imaginations and bring them to an awareness of how unique this opportunity is and how fortunate they are to have it as a life lesson.

2. New Hobbies

Expat children living in the tropics have a whole range of new hobbies that they can experience. Surfing, snorkeling, and boating, are just some of the activities that are more readily available in the Latin Tropics than in most of the U.S.

Importantly, children will have the opportunity to get up off the couch and enjoy the beauty and the wonder of the natural world that is now part of their day-to-day life. 

1. And the Number One Reason Expat Children Thrive Is…Becoming an Expat Is an Adventure!

Children are naturally curious and enjoy exploring and experiencing new and exciting places and things. This sense of adventure, with the security of sharing it with the whole family, makes the move abroad something to be embraced and treasured.

Doing your “homework” as a parent (and potential expat) can provide the kind of insight needed to ensure that your children’s expat experience is a positive one. The potential for learning life skills and self-awareness that expat children have can open many doors for them in the future.

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