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How to address the psychological impact of frequent relocation

Planning to move abroad with your family? Jet-setting can be very exciting, no doubt. But it’s not all roses and peaches. Ask any trailing spouse who isn’t able to work overseas, a third culture kid with an identity crisis, or an expat suffering from depression due to being unable to go home during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, there are even psychological impacts of frequent relocation. This Pacific Prime Latin America article breaks it down for you and offers some tips to ease the transition. 

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Relocating frequently: How does it impact children and adults? 

Beyond the stress of packing and moving, did you know that moving can be traumatic for children and adults? So much so that people who have relocated frequently whilst they were growing up have an increased risk of suicide, substance abuse, and even premature death. And yes, the science also backs this up. According to a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, there appears to be links between childhood residential mobility and adverse outcomes through to maturity. 

Forming bonds as children may be extremely challenging 

The psychological effects of moving as a child are clear. It disrupts friendships in their childhood and makes forming strong bonds with their peers more difficult – something that’s even more challenging for kids who are introverted or who are inclined to be anxious or inflexible. What’s more, these kids tend to have fewer meaningful relationships and lower wellbeing as adults. 

Note: Oftentimes, kids move abroad due to family problems like divorce or job losses, which can be even tougher on them on top of the usual stressors of kids like puberty and school changes.

Leaving behind not only possessions but also valuable relationships 

Even as adults, people who move frequently are more likely to leave behind their relationships. This is because people who move frequently tend to view both their stuff and people as more disposable. At the end of the day, they have fewer connections as compared to those who stay in one place. 

7 tips to ease the transition abroad by making friends 

The psychological impact of moving frequently doesn’t mean you should turn down every job offer abroad or never even consider the possibility of relocation. There are always two sides of the coin and moving abroad can give you and your family invaluable experiences, multilingual skills, and so much more. In addition to this, you can always find ways to address the psychological impacts of moving frequently once you’re aware of the challenges. Here are 7 tips to ease the transition abroad by making friends:

1. Be patient: You can’t expect to be best buds with anyone overnight. Remind yourself that it takes time for things to develop naturally.

2. Listen attentively: Don’t just listen to what people are saying. Try to show that you’ve taken in what they’ve said and ask questions to make discoveries and insights.

3. Overshare occasionally: Likewise, don’t be afraid to overshare a little so people get to know you. But try not to do it too early or late in the relationship. 

4. Offer support: When offering support or reassurance, avoid vague platitudes and be specific. This will make people feel closer to you. 

5. Consider acquaintances: Whether it’s a water cooler conversation or someone you met at the cafe, don’t overlook acquaintances as potential new friends. 

6. Stay occupied: If you’re a trailing spouse who doesn’t have the right to work, stay occupied by volunteering or other hobbies and find your own community to be a part of.

7. Ask for help: There’s no shame in asking for help. In fact, it’s a sign of strength. Speak to a therapist or mental health expert if you need to. 

7 tips to help your kids ease the transition abroad by making friends

Just like you’re supposed to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others, it’s equally important that you prioritize your own transition abroad before attempting to help your kids. If the thought of moving abroad, changing schools, and making new friends is not your child’s cup of tea, they’ll sense your excitement and that will make things loads easier. Next, you can focus on helping them ease the transition abroad by making friends with these 7 tips: 

1. Talk it through: Your kids may feel nervous if they don’t know what to expect. So don’t let the move be a mystery. Talk to them about it well in advance and give it time to sink in. 

2. Focus on the positives: Get your kids excited about the move by focusing on the positives. Research places you can visit and the sights to see, for instance. 

3. Lead by example: If you’re not comfortable walking up to a group of strangers, then you can’t expect your child to feel comfortable approaching a group of new classmates. 

4. Share your experience: Make sure your kids know that it’s normal to feel nervous about making friends, and share your own experience and how you handled it with them. 

5. Avoid micromanaging: It may be tempting to intervene, say on the playground, if you see your kids struggling to make friends. But consider leaving them to their own devices.

6. Stay nearby: That being said, don’t throw your kids into the deep end. If you’re going somewhere like a birthday party, stay until they feel comfortable enough for you to go. 

7. Know the signs: Kids can also suffer from poor mental health. So if you notice the signs of expat child syndrome, then speak to a child psychologist or mental health expert. 


Relocate abroad like a pro with expat health insurance from Pacific Prime Latin America

As a global health insurance brokerage and employee benefits specialist, Pacific Prime Latin America works with expats on a daily basis and knows a thing or two about frequent relocations. We strive to provide expats with tips and suggestions, such as through our complete guide to moving abroad as an expat, as well as help finding the right health plan with mental health coverage. Whether you’re looking for individual health insurance, family health insurance, or any other health insurance in Mexico or elsewhere in Latin America, you’ve come to the right place.

Contact us today for 100% unbiased advice, a free quote, and support throughout your entire insurance journey!

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Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime Latin America
Suphanida is a Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime, an award-winning global health insurance and employee benefits specialist.

With over 5 years of experience in the field, Suphanida spends the majority of her day synthesizing complex pieces of insurance-related information and translating this into easy-to-understand, engaging, and effective content across a variety of media such as articles, infographics, whitepapers, videos, and more.

Suphanida is also responsible for planning and publishing three whitepapers released annually by Pacific Prime: The State of Health Insurance Report, The Cost of Health Insurance Report, and The Global Employee Benefits Trends Report. Additionally, she handles the LinkedIn profiles of Pacific Prime’s Founder and CEO, as well as Global HR Lead.

Suphanida’s strengths lie in her strong research and analytical skills, which she has gained from her BA in Politics from the University of Warwick and Erasmus Mundus Joint MA in Journalism from Aarhus University and City, University of London.

Being of Thai-Indian origin and having lived, studied, and worked in Thailand, the UK, and Denmark, Suphanida also has a unique, multicultural perspective that helps her understand the struggles of expats and globetrotters.

Outside of work, she enjoys traveling to new places and immersing herself in different cultures.
Suphanida Thakral