For nearly a year before our family moved overseas, my mind was constantly processing the losses my young children would soon experience.
Every trip to the library was accompanied by the sad acknowledgement that we’d be living in a place where English books couldn’t be purchased, let alone checked out from the library. Every trip to the zoo or local park reminded me that our future home had very little, if any, green space. Where would my kids play, discover, and learn? With every Amazon delivery came the nagging reminder of how limited our access to products would be.
At the time of our move, our children were five, three, and one. Only my oldest could somewhat process what was ahead. I took it upon myself to process and mourn for each of them. I constantly thought of the loving grandparents, sweet friendships, and life-giving church that were so integral to our lives in the U.S. I deeply mourned what we would be giving up.
However, what I didn’t realize at the time were the unexpected blessings we would gain:
- Instantaneous friendships. Upon arrival, we were immensely blessed with mutually encouraging relationships with a few other American families. My kids were richly blessed with new friendships that greatly facilitated their adjustment to the move.
- A God-honoring view of the world. Admittedly, my kids are still young, but I marvel at their love for maps and discovering new places. I never tire hearing my two- and four-year-old casually mention cities and countries I never even knew existed when I was their age.
- Numerous “aunts” and “uncles.” While we still feel immensely the absence of grandparents and relatives, I’ve been blown away by other people who have loved on my kids in one small way or another this past year.
- A simple, intentional family life. Unlike most families in this stage of life, our days aren’t filled with T-ball or swimming lessons. The simplicity of our schedule has drawn our young family of five together in a way I never could have imagined. We play games together, read together, and even find creative ways to play outside, all while learning how to love God and one another better. It can be messy, and it’s definitely not perfect. But I’m thankful for the space that enables us to learn, discover, and grow together. In the quiet, we can know and see one another intimately and point each other to Jesus.
- A new “normal.” I still find myself often mourning the familiar. Even on the other side of the world, social media reminds me that my kids "should" be deeply engaged in extra-curricular activities. Or, at the very least, experiencing the all-American childhood I did, complete with 4th-of-July cookouts, trick-or-treating, and cutting down your own Christmas tree. But they don’t feel the loss of what I find familiar because their familiar is different. They have the amazing, innate ability to make the here and now normal. For them, three hot seasons and one less hot season is totally normal. And cramming as many people as humanly possible into a baby taxi while navigating the crazy South Asian streets is no sweat. They see the good and the fun everywhere.
- Growing in resilience. Sometimes I marvel at my kids’ ability to adjust. Being just seven months into our first term, I still experience frequent, intense longings for home. But I don’t see that in my kids. They are loved. They are safe. They are thriving. And their resilience makes me stronger.
If I could go back to the months leading up to our departure, I would comfort my mourning heart by first acknowledging the losses. After all, losses are inevitable. But I would also emphatically point out the many surprising advantages and gains to moving overseas with young children. In fact, I’m not sure I’d want to do it without them.
About the Author: Jessica has degrees in public relations and professional writing. She and her husband Scott are IDEAS Associates and moved to Asia in 2018 with their 3 children to provide health care for impoverished communities. For other blog posts on family life overseas, check out The Rewards of Moving Overseas with Children.