We are originally from the United Kingdom. Several years ago, my husband found an amazing opportunity to work abroad. We had two little boys, ages 3 years and 6 months, and we all moved to the Middle East to start our new adventure. But I underestimated the possibility of homesick children.
My homesick children
Our little family now has five members. My two boys are 7 and nearly 10. They were joined by a gorgeous little sister 5 years ago. As time has gone on, I have experienced homesickness plenty of times, but I didn’t foresee my children experiencing it. After all, the Middle East has always been home for them. Only my eldest retains fuzzy memories of our little flat back in England.
But whether this has always been their home or not, their extended family remains in England. And my children’s insistence that England is their home truly proves that home is where the heart is.
“Why are we here if our family is in England?” Khalid asked me one day. I explained about Daddy’s job and how we have all our friends here to play with.
“Yeah, but, we should be in the same place as our grandparents.”
Wise stuff from a 7-year-old, don’t you think?
They grow up so fast
What? They DO! Another cliche that shocked me with its truth. My eldest will be 10 in September. Those distant teenage years don’t seem so distant anymore, and my own mother pointed out he has spent most of his life in another country – and she’s missed it.
My daughter was born in the UK, and when she was 3 months old, I brought her back to the Middle East. When we went back to England the following summer, she was walking. The grandparents, aunties, and uncles had all missed the baby months.
Life as an expat was starting to take its toll; it felt like both my and my husband’s parents were being robbed of valuable memories with their grandchildren.
Help your homesick children – and yourself!
Now, the ultimate cure for homesickness is obvious – GO HOME. But that’s not always possible (something I quickly realised when Corona took over the world and foiled my 5-Year plan!) But there are things you can do to ease the sickness (By the way, these tips work for adults just as well as children!)
- The wonders of technology! My kids have their own iPads (heavily controlled by Yours Truly) and they set up a group with their grandparents and their cousin. Almost every day they end up in a group video chat. My eldest even managed a game of cards with his aunty and cousin!
- Share the memories. It may not be an easy task, but having relatives over to stay with you makes a HUGE difference. Let your family experience your new world. My kids now have shared memories in the Middle East with members of their family back home. They don’t feel so separated because of that. Now when they say they went to Villaggio Mall, their grandad knows exactly what they mean!
- Take advantage. The reality is: there are certain things we can do here that we CAN’T do in England. The constant sun and being 15 minutes from the beach is a definite bonus. The ease of access to kid-friendly arcades is always a wonderful feature of life in the Middle East. Take advantage of what your host country offers and let the kids know it’s your new home that makes it possible.
- Hobbies to the rescue! My eldest has recently taken an interest in origami. I’ve noticed him burying himself in scrap paper and YouTube videos when he’s upset. I asked him about it and his response was: “It calms me down when I’m feeling sad.” Hobbies for the win!
- When good neighbours become good friends. (Let me know in the comments if you know the reference 😉 ) But seriously, we wouldn’t have gotten through these expat years without the community of friends around us. Even my children admit to missing their friends terribly when we travel to England for the summer. Good friendships are vital for you and your children. If you’re reading this, Sunshine, you know who you are <3.
Take care of yourself
It’s not fun when your child is homesick, but there are ways to help ease it for your little ones. If you’re struggling with homesickness yourself, make sure you take the time to pause when you need it!
Get in touch or drop a comment below if you’ve ever had to battle long-term homesickness in your family!