Employers’ role in raising global teens

For international assignments to be a success, every relocating family member needs a positive transition. Employers who take time to invest in this are likely to see the benefit in higher engagement and retention.

Raising-global-teens-replay
Best-selling author Dr Anisha Abraham’s Raising Global Teens webinar for Relocate Global’s Great International Education and Schools fair offered research-based practical insight into how parents – supported by relocation, global mobility expertise and the international school community – can make their international move a positive experience for every family member.Pediatrician, teen health expert and author Dr Abraham was joined by session host, BBC World presenter Jayne Constantinis, and panellists Paul Williamson, executive coach and learning and development consultant, Fiona Murchie, Relocate Global’s Managing Editor and global mobility expert, and award-winning business journalist, Marianne Curphey, in this session, which rounded off the first week of Relocate Global’s month-long Great International Education and Schools Fair.

Supporting the whole family to make a great move

“There’s been lots of work on transition and change and that is hugely important,” said Fiona Murchie, highlighting the important role global mobility expertise and international schools have in settling families and assignment success. “This has come with the rise of the concept of employee engagement.“The experience of Covid-19 has meant a lot of employers are looking at what they can do to make things better. There is a whole range of people experienced in this area, but at the heart of the issue is that it is about people.“It is true that now companies are viewing individuals and families as really important. For employers and global mobility teams supporting them, the first thing is to realise this is a family. Each individual member and the family as a whole are all in it together.”

Relocating with teenagers

Each stage of a young person’s life presents different challenges for relocation. For teenagers, an overarching theme developmentally is that of identity. In the context of assignment success, where figures estimate around a third fail because family members find the adjustment difficult, building capacity around the specific relocation challenges for teenagers is critical to assignment uptake and success.Today’s generation of teenagers are more globally connected and globally minded than previous generations. Because of globalisation, more children are also being raised in a country or culture where their parents are immigrants, who are part of globally mobile families, or study at International Schools or universities. Cultural transitions are a fundamental part of their lived experience.“’Third-culture kids’ navigate between their parents’ culture, their own and the new culture,” says Dr Abraham, who has first-hand understanding of the challenges involved in moving countries, cities and continents as part of a family. “Being aware of that is part of this new movement to being cross-cultural.”

Supporting transitions into new cultures for teenagers

Growing up with multiple cultural influences is both an opportunity and a challenge. “Cross-cultural teens have tremendous tolerance and strength,” said Dr Abraham. These are really important concepts for world we are experiencing right now.”Yet as well as coming to terms with missing their school, community and extended family in their home or previous host country, teenagers on assignment are grappling with building their unique self-identity and sense of belonging. “’Who is my community?’  and ‘who are my tribe?’ are often questions teens have,” said Dr Abraham.So how can global mobility expertise and employers help teenage family members and their parents to make a positive international transition, forge new friendship groups and develop a positive cross-cultural self-identity?“This is a very important question,” says Dr Abraham. “Really preparing them to take the time to say goodbye is important because this can lead to issues of unresolved grief if it doesn’t happen.“It’s about making sure they have the time to continue those connections in the new place, as well as starting to make sure they get integrated into the new community and find a tribe that is meaningful to them.”

Supporting transitions to new cultures for teenagers

Involving teenagers upfront is important when an employee is offered an international relocation. For parents, supporting their teenager is about being upfront and saying, “we have a transition coming up and it involves you.”Destination service providers that are able to offer information for every family member, online destination guides tailored to individual families and accessible relocation-planning dashboards can help teenagers feel more involved in the process so they can begin to envisage and get enthused about their new life.“Kids are creative and resilient, “says Dr Abraham. “My son looked on Google maps to find his new school and what his journey would be. Involve them early on and have some sense of the answers to their questions about making connections with people in the new place.”International schools are expert in understanding the challenges relocating families face. Many offer a ready-made community in and out of the classroom, have onboarding for new families and teaching staff, host parent cafes and offer language lessons to help assignees of all ages both retain a sense of their roots and learn a new language, easing transitions into other cultures by building these all-important social connections.Education consultants and tutors as well as schools and destination service providers also have an important role for signposting ways for teens to stay connected with their existing extra-curricular interests and for suggesting new ones.

Employee and family wellbeing

For some teenagers, international assignments mean moving to boarding school or starting a university course in a country away from their parents. This makes experienced and trusted pastoral support critical, especially for young people with health issues.“Here a young person is not only losing that community support, but also family support,” said Dr Abrahams. “Make sure you have that in the new environment. If someone has problems, for example, around body issues, then make sure they have support in that new community.“You need to have the infrastructure in place to access support. That help might sometimes be professional. We do really need to ensure that young people have a group of people they can talk to and connect with and who might be more than just us as a family.”For employers, this might mean reassessing the type and coverage of family health benefits on offer and being mindful of individual circumstances within the family unit. A recent study by global professional services, health and insurance firm Aon shows resiliance triples with well-rounded support and the link with employee engagement.Ultimately, as the adage goes, it takes a village to raise a child. As Dr Anisha Abraham’s book, the Great International Education and Schools Fair webinars and resources, and the work of international schools show, for international relocations it certainly takes an holistic approach to global mobility to ensure a successful transition for every family member.Find out more about transition by attending “Safe Passage: Healthy transitions for students, families & staff today” with Doug Ota, author, clinical child psychologist and expert in transitions-care, plus our lively panel of experts this Thursday, 12 November.  

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