ex-pat · Kids · soccer · Switzerland

The expat kid life: Supporting kids through the daily struggles of living in a foreign land

I am proud of my kids. I spent much of the weekend watching my son do what he loves: play sports. I had a recurring thought all weekend. I am so proud of him for continuing to go out of his comfort zone here. We are on a beautiful adventure in Europe, but there are tough days. Vin is the outsider, the foreigner, on teams of kids who have known each other for years, and who communicate solely in a language his is just starting to learn. I can’t help him. His dad can’t help him. We speak less Swiss German than he does. He has days when he gets so discouraged, feels so alone, I can see it written all over his face. But he gets back out there completely on his own, and figures things out. And he comes out smiling.

Vin playing winger, with the puck, in a Moskito game this winter for EHC Schaffhausen.

Vin and his SV Spielvi football team celebrate a victory this past fall.
 
 
Vin with the boys of grade 4, who are from (l-r) Switzerland, Brazil, France, California and Germany.
 
My girls are pushing themselves here too, in their own way. While Sophie is shyer and not interested in the vulnerability of local Swiss teams (and I don’t blame her; I’d be the same way), she is living the classic ex-pat experience and trying new things, joining clubs, and constantly going out of her comfort zone. Jumping right into skiing in the Swiss Alps is just one example. She is tackling it head on. Dealing with middle school pressures, all while far from home and the friends she has grown to love, trying to find people to trust and navigate the oh-so-hard junior high drama years. She’s doing it. All while learning to live on another continent. Not simple stuff!
Sophie with her schoolmates, from (l-r) Mexico, Sweden, Florida, and South Africa.
 
In the dorms on a school trip.
 
Sophie, in the white helmet, left, second from the front, waving to the camera. She was white water rafting in Scoul, in the Swiss Alps, for a school trip.
 
Juliana, while not old enough here to join teams, is also being very brave, chatting people up at the grocery store, making new friends from all over the world, hiking in the Alps, and learning German like a champ. She is eager to explore and learn, and like most 5 year olds, is excited to wake up each morning to see what the day brings.
Juliana with her classmates, who are from Australia, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and Hungary.
 
We do our best to support them and have an open dialogue about how they’re feeling. We are learning along the way, which is so often the case in parenting. Everyday here is not a perfect day on a beach in Italy. Some days, my kids feel out of place or awkward, being the new kids in a foreign country. But they are learning so much. They are learning that the world does not revolve around them. They are figuring out that a smile is a great form of communication, even when you can’t find the words. Every kid, no matter what their background, understands a smile. They are becoming more confident and, more importantly, more empathetic. And hopefully, they will be more understanding of “outsiders” they encounter once we are back living in the States. Back in their comfort zone. Because they know what it feels like. I am so proud of them.

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