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Are You Living a Sustainable Life? 3 Easy Steps to Prevent Taking a Fall

Are You Living a Sustainable Life? 3 Easy Steps to Prevent Taking a Fall

Feeling swept away with all the “extras” of the expat lifestyle? These 3 steps will help maximize the experience and create sustainable lifestyle habits while living abroad, or heading back home.

Living abroad brings lots of challenges, but it can also bring great rewards. Relocation may trigger larger wages, a bigger house, free private schooling, upscale neighborhoods, and perhaps more disposable income. Additionally, relocation may also provide in-home services such as a housekeeper and chauffer.

All of these benefits are fabulous, especially if they are new and normally unavailable in your home country. They can help make the transition in to a new environment easier by freeing up time and money so you can focus on important matters like getting your children settled and learning about your new city.

However, if the benefits begin to cause you to create a lifestyle that your family requires in order to function, they may set you up for a major tumble when you change countries or return home. Not all services are available in every location. Costs of living, access to cheap labor, and cultural norms greatly influence the benefits available in each locality. Additionally, economic conditions, both nationally and globally, can impact benefit packages.

Some families use the benefits wisely to construct a safety net for the future or fix past financial issues. Investing excess disposable income to create a nest egg to pay for college or start a new business can help make the future exciting and feel more secure. Similarly, using the extra income to pay off old debt can liberate a family from unease and uncertainty. In either case, the benefits are being enjoyed in a tangible way while living abroad and in the future regardless of location change.

Other families can get into a cycle where they use the benefits to play in a different league than what they are accustomed to. They may see their new circumstances as putting them in a different economic or social class. As such, family decisions are made to align with the perceived economic or social class rather than with the temporality of the change. Through this behavior the families may be setting themselves up for a fall.

These families may focus on projecting a new image that makes them feel confident and powerful. Relocation packages that include school costs, home costs, and other services may increase disposable income. In order to project a new, more important image some families spend this money on lavish vacations, luxury good purchases, or increase their spending habits. However, the sustainability of the lifestyle may not be possible if economic or physical location change occurs.

This is the most harmful for children who cannot understand a swift change in status – either up or down. Children often do not understand the underlying economic reasons for an immediate improvement of their situation or, more difficultly, a decline. Even if the child understands logically about how finances work, emotionally it can be hard to adjust.

Children thrive in environments that are consistent and predictable. Making a huge leap up can be exciting but also displacing. They may wonder if they are now a “better” person or “more important". A child who is suddenly allowed to leave a messy room because a housekeeper will pick up after them will not learn how to care for him or herself. Similarly, a child who does not respect and eat the food that´s prepared by a cook will not learn how to be gracious in other people’s homes. Or, a child who is allowed to disrespect his or her au pair or nanny will not respect teachers and school staff. It can be very difficult for a child to understand his or her place in the family and world when everything is served on a silver platter. For more on this, you may want to see my blog post on overindulgence (Is overindulgence robbing your child of happiness?)

Unfortunately, even more difficult than the disequilibrium of moving up quickly is the when there is a swift downshift. Even if the downward movement is to where the family began before the relocation abroad, it can feel lower after being at a high point. Children can question their value and that of their family. They can feel they are “less important” or ashamed of their current status. They may have become accustomed to being cared for in a way that makes them angry to do normal activities. They may resent being responsible for activities they once had done for them (i.e. making beds, washing dishes). They may also rebel and look for ways to feel powerful again if they have been disempowered in social settings, such as school.

Unfortunately, even more difficult than the disequilibrium of moving up quickly is the when there is a swift downshift. Even if the downward movement is to where the family began before the relocation abroad, it can feel lower after being at a high point. Children can question their value and that of their family. They can feel they are “less important” or ashamed of their current status. They may have become accustomed to being cared for in a way that makes them angry to do normal activities. They may resent being responsible for activities they once had done for them (i.e. making beds, washing dishes). They may also rebel and look for ways to feel powerful again if they have been disempowered in social settings, such as school.

So, how can you learn to use the benefits of relocation wisely without letting them set you and your family up for a huge fall if or when they are removed?

A sustainable life in 3 easy steps:

  1. Feel confident in who you are as a family. Your family has been relocated because of your abilities and skills. You have nothing to prove to anyone. You are where you are supposed to be because of who you are. Everyone is on a different journey. Embrace your course and feel secure that you are up to the challenge just the way you are.
  2. Assess your priorities. Don’t let others direct your family’s priorities. Determine what you want to gain from this experience. Talk about what steps you need to take to reach your goals. Work diligently towards accomplishing what you desire. Then, celebrate your success!
  3. Avoid comparing lifestyles. Don’t feel compelled to follow the crowd. There is no competition for the best family. Be happy for other people and what they choose to do in their families, but feel confident that you know what is best for your family. Let go of the competition.

In the end, you want to set your family up for success. One of your goals should be to remember your relocation to another country as an adventure that was positive and brought your family a valuable experience. Avoiding situations that will create disappointment or financial difficulty because of unsustainability will help you meet this goal.

Using the three easy steps above to keep you grounded in your family’s values and norms will help you enjoy your time abroad as well as your next journey or return home.

 

Knowledge is power

  • What new information did you learn from this posting? 
  • Did it help you identify something in your family you would like to change? 

Share your experience below and what steps you plan on taking to guide your family.

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Sunday, 19 November 2017

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