Page 81 - Foreign Service Journal - December 2012

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ransitioning back to the
United States is often
the most difcult move
for Foreign Service kids.
“We tend to think the
move back to the United
States is the easy move,” says Connie
Hansen, a former coordinator of the
Overseas Briefng Center at FSI’s Transi-
tion Center. “But, in fact, everyone will
say that the hardest assignment of all is
coming back to Washington, D.C.”
It can be a big culture shock because
going “home” is expected to be easy, yet
it requires preparation just like moving
abroad. Eventually, of course, as with
any move, kids develop friendships and
fnd activities and interests. But aware-
ness that returning to the States is difer-
ent from other moves helps to manage
To say my son was excited to come
back to the United States in ninth grade
would be an understatement. He had
already envisioned our house, neigh-
borhood and old friends just waiting
for him. ”Tis move will be diferent,” I
kept telling him. After being overseas for
eight years, “home” would be diferent—
not bad, but diferent.
A Tip Sheet
As a seasoned Foreign Service parent
and the Education and Youth Ofcer in
the Family Liaison Ofce, let me recom-
mend some tried and tested things you
can do to ease your children’s transition:
1. Prepare for the move by doing
Check out homes, neighbor-
hoods and educational options as a
family if you can. Sometimes doing this
together will help your kids get excited
about their move and allow them to feel
that they have “buy in” about what’s
coming next. Involve your kids when
you have already narrowed down the
options, but know that ultimately, it is
okay to make an executive decision.
2. Anticipate that before, during
and after the move your children may
seem hesitant or frustrated at times.
Try to avoid taking this personally; it is
a part of the adjustment that your kids
must go through. Keep the lines of com-
munication open.
3. Talk to other Foreign Service par-
ents—consider joining the FS Parents
Yahoo Group
com/group/FSparent/). Re
member, you
are not alone, and you are not the only
family undertaking this transition.
4. Help your kids manage their
expectations about life in the U.S.
Your children may anticipate that their
neighborhood friends from frst grade
will be knocking on their door the day
you move in (even though eight years
have passed). Help them set realistic
Returning “home” can be the toughest assignment of all.
Leah Wallace is the Education & Youth
Ofcer in the State Department’s Family
Liaison Ofce.
Help your children
set realistic
expectations about
friendships, “home”
and school.