When I first told my family about moving abroad, I would not say they were overwhelmingly supportive. They tried to talk me out of it at first. I remember my mom telling me I should just visit London on my 2 weeks of vacation a year if I wanted to. I remember my family not understanding why I wanted to move abroad. It didn’t make sense to them because it wasn’t a desire they had. Why would I want to move abroad when life was so great in Texas? Did I not like Texas? My siblings took it personally, even after moving abroad. It was like they felt I was abandoning them or something. But eventually, they would tell me that if it was something I really wanted, then they would support me. Because they love me and they want me to be happy.
Telling your family that you want to move abroad is an important conversation. The first time you bring it up, they might be supportive and excited for you immediately, but they might not be. They might have reservations. The timing and approach of how you tell your family you want to move abroad can significantly impact their reactions and your ability to navigate their support or lack thereof. So let’s discuss it! Here are some guidelines on when and how to approach your “I want to move abroad” conversation with your family, and what to do if your family doesn’t support your decision immediately.
It’s generally a good idea to have this conversation well in advance of your planned move. This allows your family time to process your decision and for you to address any concerns they may have. So, be ready to address these potential concerns. Some common concerns are:
I would recommend waiting to tell your friends and family until you have a clear plan and have done your research. Having concrete details about where you’re going, why, and how you’ll manage your life abroad can help alleviate some of their concerns. And doing your research will also make you more confident in your move abroad. It would be a shame to get talked out of accomplishing your dream of moving abroad because of your family’s concerns. You don’t need to have ALL of the answers, but having a clear direction and plan to move abroad will help you stay on track to pursue your dream of moving abroad, even if your family expresses their fears.
While there is never going to be a perfect time to tell your family you want to move abroad, it would be smart to be sensitive to any ongoing family events or crises. If your family is dealing with a major issue, consider postponing the conversation until things have settled down. But be careful to keep using any little issue to keep you from talking with them and moving forward with your dream.
Approach the conversation with honesty and openness. Explain your reasons for wanting to move abroad, such as career opportunities, personal growth, or adventure. If you have a big family, I’d consider talking to them one or two at a time so they can each have more focused time to be honest about the way they feel and ask you questions. This might also be helpful so you don’t feel like they are all attacking you if they aren’t all supportive from the get go.
Then, give your family members an opportunity to express their feelings, concerns, and questions. Actively listen to their perspectives and validate their emotions, even if you disagree.
Share information about your plans, including how you’ll stay in touch, how often you’ll visit, and how you’ll handle practical matters like finances and healthcare. If you’re financially independent and self-reliant, reassure your family that you are making a responsible decision and are prepared for the challenges that may arise. If you go into the conversation feeling confident, they are more likely to be confident in this too.
Respect their feelings. Understand that your family’s initial reaction may be rooted in concern for your well-being and let’s be honest, it might be rooted in a fear that they might lose you. Give them time to process your decision. Over time, continue to demonstrate your commitment to your goals and responsibilities, both abroad and toward your family back home.
Reassure them that you will stay connected with them through regular communication – video calls, messaging apps, and social media can help bridge the distance. And then then you move abroad, stay committed to staying in touch and adjust your communication style to what each person needs. Some of my family need phone calls, some prefer video calls and some prefer snapchat. You’ll find your rhythm after a while!
If your family remains unsupportive or overly negative, seek support from friends, mentors, or support groups for expatriates. They can offer guidance and understanding.
Stay focused on the reasons you wanted to move abroad in the first place. Your journey is ultimately about YOUR personal growth and development. This is YOUR life and you need to make the best decisions for yourself.
Over time, you may need to revisit the conversation and address any lingering concerns. Share your experiences and achievements to help your family see the positive aspects of your decision.
Remember that the initial reaction when you tell your family you want to move abroad may not necessarily reflect their final stance. Over time, as they see your determination and see you moving forward with the move abroad, they may become more supportive of your decision to move abroad. Being patient, having open communication, and trying to be understanding about where they are coming from will be key in navigating this situation. You got this!