UNDER-RECOGNITION OF MOBILITY ISSUES: ISC WELLBEING IN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS REPORT 3/5
Welcome back to my third blog in a series of five discussing key findings and recommendations from ISC Research’s report on Wellbeing in International Schools.
In this blog, I discuss the key report finding that mobility issues are under-recognised. This finding directly connects to my work on emotional wellbeing for relocation.
BACKGROUND TO THE WELLBEING IN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS REPORT
ISC Research’s report shares the preliminary findings of the first global research into wellbeing in international schools. The report is authored by Angie Wigford at International Educational Psychology Services Ltd. and Andrea Higgins at Cardiff University School of Psychology.
AIMS OF THE WELLBEING IN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS RESEARCH
There are two main aims in the Wellbeing in International Schools report:
to identify what promotes wellbeing
to identify the barriers to wellbeing.
KEY FINDING FROM THE WELLBEING IN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS REPORT
“Mobility issues, particularly school changes, appear to be under-recognised. Understanding transition in terms of loss and grief can be helpful” (Wigford and Higgins, 2018: p.23).
Coming from a monocultural background, I would agree that this quote describes my early experience as an international teacher. It wasn’t until I began reading for my doctorate that I started to understand the impact of mobility issues, especially the role of loss and grief. I began my reading with Third Culture Kids: Growing up Among Worlds by David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken. Reading that book acted like a camera lens, bringing my students’ challenges into focus. For almost all of the difficulties the authors outlined, I could picture an individual student or an interaction between students which perfectly illustrated each of those issues. I was particularly struck by the long-term impact of loss and grief. My immediate response was to search for effective strategies which I could use as a class teacher to support my students while they were in my care. That’s what led me to trial an emotional intelligence intervention to support my students.
In my work now, I find a majority of international teachers are unaware of the extent to which loss and grief impact their students. The lack of awareness applies to both the short-term impact of grief, such as withdrawal from friends who are leaving, and the long-term impact of loss and grief, which can continue long after students leave school.
HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO ORGANISATIONS WHO RELOCATE FAMILIES?
Dealing with children’s uncomfortable and challenging emotions often poses a big challenge for parents in an international move. Those difficult feelings are inherently part of an international move and can’t be avoided. In my conversations with parents, they are keen to support their children with the emotional stress of relocation, including navigating through loss and grief. However, parents are often unsure of the best way to support their children. This is further compounded by the “acceptance by families that parental guilt and child grief were inescapable aspects of living a mobile lifestyle.” (McLachlan, p.239: 2007)
Family issues are cited as the top reason for expat assignment failure (Brookfields Global Mobility Trends Survey, 2016). Given that a failed expat assignment can cost up to 40x an executive’s base salary* (O’Sullivan, 2017), it makes sense for organisations relocating staff to support the whole family through that move. An Allianz survey (2018) identified that 97% of expats identified pre-relocation support and happy dependents as the key to successful expat assignments.
The good news is that there are a number of simple and positive strategies which parents can engage to support their children and themselves through the stressful relocation process.
HOW I CAN HELP
For organisations relocating people, contact me to find out more about my hello/goodbye family relocation programme
Check out my resource cards (emotion cards and A New Adventure: Coaching Cards for an International Move) which have been specifically designed to support families navigate through the loss and grief of an international move.
For international schools, find out about the professional development opportunities I offer for all staff. Take a look at the video below to give you an idea of my workshops.
*40x base salary: the potential cost of a failed expat assignment for executives with an annual salary about US$250,000 (O’Sullivan, 2017).