Raising Kids Abroad. Would You Be Ready?

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What if one day, you would have the opportunity to take your family to live in another country? Would you be ready? Would you be afraid? Would you be excited? Maybe all of them.

Making the decision of taking your family to the unknown may cause some heart palpitations, but it will also lead you to a stronger and fulfilled heart.

When we decided to take the opportunity to move to St. Louis, in August 2017. I didn’t know what to expect (I cried so much, trust me), I had no one in the same situation (I searched a lot, believe me), so we literally made this experience learning all from scratch.  Now, in my current position of Portuguese Mom in the USA (and probably the only Portuguese mom in St. Louis – address me the other one you may know, please!) I’ll share with you some tips and facts which I hope may make things easier for you, if/when you take the chance of living abroad with your kids.

  • Place to live

You’ll feel excited about choosing your next new house, but before deciding whether house is the prettiest or neighborhood is the most welcoming, do your work with school districts and healthcare facilities. More than a beautiful house for your kids, you may want them to have the best education and reliable healthcare. Then, go for the house.

  • Language

This will be incredibly easy for the children. Kids soak information so easily, and playing with other kids that don’t speak the same language, will be their best learning tool. Some schools have specific programs for non-native speakers, which is a huge help and make children feel much more confident and supported. Anyway, on my kid’s first day of school I gave each one a paper with pictures related to basic actions such as “I need help”, “Restroom”, “I got hurt”, “Call mommy!” (I know, shame on me…), so that they could point them out to the teacher, whenever they needed help.

At home, when watching cartoons on TV, turn the captions on – this will help them with the grammar, since they will listen to the accent and way words and pronounced, but also relate to the way they are written.

  • Culture

Your kids will learn new habits and will celebrate new holidays, and that is great. Explore all the resources available (city website, local newspapers, museums newsletters), go outside and have fun. Take your little ones to kids’ events, make a family trip to the main landmarks, take pictures and share with the family, talk to locals and observe. Even if you feel insecure about language barrier or are afraid of being noticed as foreign, just take a low profile and try to enjoy and make the best of it (sooner than you expect you’ll feel engaged with that new way of living).

  • Emergency tools

When everything seems to fail, keep in mind your new best friends: GPS, Google translator and Disney Channel.

I consider these the basics to survive the initial months. Expect some fragility, doubts and fears. Not everything will be easy all the time and, whenever that happens, just stop, look around and stare all the amazing new things your kids are doing, embrace your beloved ones and feel how stronger they’re getting every day, be proud of you and the courage you’re having to do something a half world is afraid of, but also cheer to the the unique experience you are providing to your children, that half world would love to have too.

Raising kids abroad has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life, but also one of the most rewarding. I’m not packing them with games and gifts, but with world and experiences.  I know that I’m raising better human beings, stronger and kinder, and whatever the future reserves to them, I know they will be ready, and my heart will feel like home.

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Maria Ines Goncalves is yet another Portuguese mom named Maria (like most of the women in Portugal), but now she is a Portuguese mom in the USA. Born in Portugal, Maria graduated with a degree in Political Science and believed she was not ready for motherhood, wanting to pursue her career and travel the world, although not wanting to live overseas. Guess what? She turned into a stay-at-home-mom of three (2007, 2010 and 2018) and moved to St. Louis due to her husband's job in 2017. Changes are a pattern in her life and, when she’s not adjusting to another life change, she loves to dance, bake, photograph, sew, draw and paint with the kids. But mainly she loves to enjoy the beauty and craziness of motherhood, her real and most precious purpose in life.

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