Ways to Help Expatriate Families Adjust to An Overseas Assignment

1. Identify networking resources. Before departure, with the help of a relocation service, put the trailing spouse in touch with nonprofit organizations such as the Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas (FAWCO). This organization has 65 chapters in more than 30 countries and helps people meet other expatriates from the United States. Most chapters offer programs around the theme “Bloom Where You Are Planted.” To identify the appropriate foreign country representative, contact FAWCO’s Washington Liaison, Eleonor Fina, at fax number (703) 768-0920. Other local organizations can be identified by relocation services.

2. Help adjust expectations. Trailing partners who have the best experiences are those who are able to “let go” of their assumptions about what will make them and their children happy. Encourage expatriates and their families to keep an open mind and value the differences instead of focusing on them as negatives, especially when they first arrive. Warn them that the expatriate experience can either bring a family closer together or draw it apart.

Moreover, the attitude of the trailing spouse has much to do with how the children will feel about the experience. If viewed in terms of cultural adjustment models, enthusiasm has to be cultivated once a family moves out of the “honeymoon period” if they are to ever achieve full integration into the host country.