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  • Writer's pictureNorma Davila, Ph.D., CPRW, CPCC, SHRM-SC

Challenges and Barriers to Family Relocation

4th in a Series | Voice of Experts

In this blog series, we are talking about the effects of relocations on families. We have already described today’s different types of families, shared specific examples of how families are reacting to the relocation, and what can make relocations easier for families.

Let’s look at some of the challenges and barriers that families face before and after they move as well as at what they can do to overcome them. Suma Koralgundi, Anikó Lenkei, Heidi Ravis, and Leila Heron, REA coaches who are supporting families in their relocations, shared their insights.

Before the Relocation

Expectations, emotions, motivations, and previous relocation experiences influence how family members perceive their own readiness to move.

Suma has found that many families initially believe to be better prepared for the move than they really are. Spouses and partners gradually discover their anxieties and concerns when they interact with Suma who guides them to identify their families’ particular challenges and to create roadmaps to leverage resources to address those challenges before and after the move.

Anikó suggests using a “magic tool” to handle children’s emotions by incorporating their fears into bedtime stories where heroes with the children’s names go through similar experiences, find wonderful opportunities, and have positive outcomes.

Anikó and Heidi shared that concerns about separation from social circles and other family members are another issue that these families have to handle. Families that care for extended family members, such as elderly parents, particularly, if they are patchwork families, also must manage the practical components of ensuring their family members’ wellbeing.

Planning the move and connecting with others in the new community before arriving gain additional significance for these families. According to Heidi, finding a home that is safe and accessible for a person with mobility issues, locating local services providing essential health services, and arranging additional in-home care may be necessary and could take additional time.

Arriving at a new location typically requires new sets of skills some of which cannot always be completely anticipated.

After the Relocation

Leila shared that relocating families need to learn how to conduct everyday transactions, such as where and how to obtain products and services, in their host country. Doing so demands familiarity with the culture and its unwritten rules.

Leila proposes that families attend local meetings of expat support groups. Cultural training offered by relocation sponsoring companies is another way to learn about what to expect.

Some spouses and partners are ready to continue working in their fields as soon as they relocate while others need professional development and upskilling to do so.

As Leila stated, embassy contacts, networking opportunities, volunteering options, and business organizations as well as free online training resources provide alternatives to prepare to enter the workforce. Spouses and partners also need to make sure that their CV’s, résumés, and interview preparation are customized for the new job market.

Leila and Anikó pointed out that spouses and partners may feel socially isolated after they arrive, especially if they lack the language skills necessary to communicate effectively with others.

Leila encourages participating in social groups and local co-working opportunities as well as volunteering in the community as ways to overcome social isolation. These activities could become bridges into career options and other meaningful pursuits as families get settled. Becoming conversant in the new language contributes to strengthening self-esteem and sense of autonomy and learning it in groups is another avenue to form relationships.

Children who were raised in cultures different from their parents or from their country of origin and who lived in yet another culture during their childhood have unique adaptation needs according to Leila.

International schools can be an option for these children because host country schools may be unprepared to address their needs. Leila further recommends that parents should reach out to international networks and support groups to obtain additional assistance.

If you relocated before, what challenges did you face and how did you overcome them? If you have not, which of these challenges resonate most with you?

Let’s pause. You don’t have to handle the relocation by yourself!

A professional career coach can help you in several ways, including:

  • Managing emotions and expectations about the relocation

  • Creating plans to address the needs of family members who must remain in the home country

  • Identifying resources to facilitate cultural and language adaptation

  • Designing a job search strategy and its supplementary documents

  • Gathering information about schools and community resources

REA’s coaches specialize in assisting professionals and their families to address these issues and many others. You don’t need to navigate your family’s relocation alone -- we’re here to help! Check out REA Flex Coaching services to help you get a jumpstart on your path to a successful relocation!

Coming up next in this series, in The Voice of Experts, several professional career coaches who work with families in their relocation journeys will share how they adapt their work to meet the needs of families during relocation.

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