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  • Writer's pictureSam Danforth

Welcome to Raising a Family Overseas!

Updated: May 15, 2023

Moving to a new country is not easy. If you're reading this, you are probably about to move overseas, live overseas, or know someone who does. If you're wondering how this transition is going to impact your kids, your life, your marriage, and your faith, you're in the right place. You'll find your people here. This is a soft landing place. Take a breath and read on.

You probably have a lot of questions right now. You may be dealing with mixed emotions: excitement for a new chapter overseas and apprehension about the toll it will take on your family. Thankfully, you are not the first person to pursue a life abroad. Thousands have gone before you. Many of them had kids, just like you. This space will answer some of your questions about raising a family overseas. You will find some advice and strategies that you like and can't wait to implement. You will also find some things that you don't like at all. That's perfect because it means you're reading this with your family in mind.

I share from the perspective of a third culture kid, an expat parent, a teacher, a missionary, and a researcher/author on life overseas. I grew up in Cameroon, Quebec, and the United States, and raised my own kids in Lesotho and the farm where I currently live in South Africa. "What was it like growing up overseas?" is a familiar question. For me, it was magical. Magical doesn’t mean easy, but it does mean beautiful. Growing up across several cultures gave me the gift of learning how to connect despite differences. I learned that God isn’t to be stuffed into a neat little Western package but has beauty, redemption, and mystery unfolding in every culture and language. Growing up overseas is where I learned that it’s ok to be the only kid of my color in the entire community (other than my siblings). I discovered that I can learn something from everyone and that the very things that challenge me might become my favorites. I learned that life is fragile and simultaneously we are resilient. I learned to be broken and mended. I learned that when the family unit is strong, the child has space to grow, laugh, play, learn, and launch, even if all that family has is a roof over their heads. I learned about traditional herbal medicine, how to weave baskets, how to set traps, and how to recite traditional folklore. I met my first family members who didn’t look like me, my first TCKs who became lifelong friends, and my high school sweetheart, who co-authored this adventure of a life we share.

Before writing my book, "Raising a Family Overseas", I thought long and hard about families just like yours. I pictured the faces of the young parents in my pre-field missionary training. I pictured the faces of the newly-moved families in the Africa Orientation Course where I used to teach. I remembered my own questions as a pre-field parent. Just because I grew up abroad didn't mean that I had it all figured out on how to raise my own two kids in a new culture. I surveyed dozens of pre-fielders and asked them what they wanted to know about taking their families around the globe. I surveyed over 100 expat parents and kids living in 40 countries around the world and asked them how they were doing it. I asked them what they thought pre-field families should know. I made sure to survey people who moved for missionary, military, business, pleasure, safety, and educational purposes. They represent a wide variety of passport cultures as well as host cultures. They include first, second, and third-generation expats. Raising a Family Overseas is the product of thousands of pieces of data gathered from their answers as well as my own experiences.

The life ahead of you may not be an easy one. This transition is certainly going to impact your kids, your life, your marriage, and your faith. And guess what. You're about to join a tribe that has bravely and vulnerably shared their stories with you because they counted it a beautiful, worthwhile life and they know you probably will too someday.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;

let them ever sing for joy,

and spread your protection over them,

that those who love your name may exult in you.

Psalm 5:11

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