Moving Abroad with Children
Moving abroad with children is a life-changing decision. There are many factors to consider: where will your children feel comfortable, what schools will they attend, and how quickly will they adjust? Luckily, children are adaptable, and experiencing a new culture is an adventure that will encourage your children to grow and learn about themselves and the world.
Expatriate children, or those who live overseas for a significant period of their childhood, are often referred to as third-culture kids (TCKs). Studies have shown that TCKs realize many advantages, including the ability to adapt easily to new situations, become multilingual, and gain life experience beyond their years. Parents of TCKs experience the world through their children’s eyes, and often nurture a strong family bond based off mutual experiences and togetherness.
Costa Rica is an excellent choice for a family move abroad. Often referred to as the “Switzerland of Central America,” Costa Rica is a beacon of peace in a complicated world. The country abolished its army in 1948 and enjoys a stable democratic government. Today, Costa Rica’s commitment to harmony is evident, as the government’s would-be defense budget is funneled into public education. Here, your children are surrounded by a culture where non-violence emerges from history books and into everyday life.
Friendly and hospitable communities welcome newcomers, and especially children, who are held in very high esteem in Costa Rican culture. This family-oriented society allows kids to make friends easily, thus opening doors to their new home. In no time at all, your children will count neighborhood children as their best friends – and they’ll be learning Spanish, adjusting to their new surroundings and absorbing another culture as they play and interact.
For a leg up in the local language, Costa Rica’s private language schools are a great investment. Choose a program that caters to youth or families, and sign the gang up for at least two weeks of Spanish immersion and culture. Your instructors will teach you useful vocabulary, grammar and cultural skills on a daily basis. Before you know it, your family will be speaking basic Spanish, and everyone will feel more secure in their adopted home.
In Costa Rica, family is the foundation of society. For many, not a week goes by that grandparents don’t visit with grandchildren or adult siblings can’t sit down to share coffee. Weekends are often filled with family events like barbecues, trips to local parks, or visits to each other’s homes, helping families stay close. You’ll find that children don’t embarrass quite as easily; for example, a twelve-year old boy may hold his mother’s hand at the supermarket, regardless of who’s watching. Fathers give love freely and publicly, and it’s not uncommon to see teenagers cooing at tiny babies. Family is important, and living in Costa Rica will underscore and fortify your familial bond.
In addition to the intangible, Costa Rica also offers plenty of perks for families considering a move abroad. Top-notch medical services are widely available, especially in the Central Valley, and at much lower cost than in the United States. Private schools offer a high quality of education, including bi- or trilingual classes and international baccalaureate degrees. If you plan to send your children back home for college, certain institutions follow international curriculums and schedules, and feed directly into universities abroad.
Costa Rica is an excellent place to raise a family, and when you make the move, you’ll be joining thousands of other relocated families. In addition to your immediate neighbors, the expat community will extend the hand of friendship, and help you adjust to your new surroundings. Welcome!