Specialist consultant and ICF coach DR SARAH WHYTE shares how she helps expat families cope with the ups and downs of relocation.
Why did you start your consultancy here?
I was a primary school teacher and the Head of Curriculum for Personal, Social, Health and Citizenship Education at an international school in Singapore when I wrote my doctorate on emotional intelligence and Third Culture Kids. As I researched the challenges for children growing up internationally, I realised there wasn’t any evidence-based emotional support for families, international school teachers or organisations relocating staff with children. I decided to use my research and expertise to create a new programme to support emotional wellbeing for relocation.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Working directly with children and their families and seeing the positive results on their relocation experience.
Why is emotional wellbeing so important during a move?
It’s absolutely vital to address the grief that is an inherent part of an overseas move. Grief can manifest in many ways, such as anger and withdrawal. It is a normal and natural emotional reaction to loss or change of any kind, both of which persist throughout the relocation process.
There’s a misconception that focusing only on the positive aspects of a move is the best way to deal with grief. However, it is actually far better to appropriately address feelings of grief as they occur, so they can be processed and resolved. When this doesn’t happen, those who grow up internationally are at risk of sudden and unexpected issues caused by unresolved grief later in life.
Tell us about your “hello/goodbye” programme.
The programme gives parents a structured framework to address challenges during the stress of moving. It’s built upon my Elements of Transition model, which comes directly from my doctoral research and international teaching experience. It promotes emotional wellbeing throughout the relocation process using a customised combination of data, resources, personal consultations and coaching to best meet the needs of each family. Parents can expect to learn simple, practical strategies to emotionally support the whole family through each stage of the relocation. For example, “A New Adventure Coaching Cards” allow parents to have a constructive dialogue with their children, starting from when they know they are moving until they are feeling settled in their new home.
What are some key factors that contribute to having a successful move?
It’s essential to prepare yourself emotionally for relocation in addition to planning the logistics of your move. Relocation is a stressful process no matter how often you’ve moved previously – it’s important to recognise that each family member will react differently to stress. Be proactive and anticipate that there will be emotional challenges for months around the move itself.
Any other tips you can offer to relocating families?
The most important piece of advice I can give is that relocation is an end-to-end process – it doesn’t just end once you’ve unpacked. Contact me to understand the unique challenges of each stage of relocation and find out how the “hello/goodbye” programme can help your family, international school or organisation.
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