What a show. Family Matters, the anchor sitcom to the infamous TGIF programming of the 90s. This is classic stuff; the quirky neighbor kid who made us laugh with one-liners like, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”. Hopefully humor has come a long way since that show, but the reality is that Steve Urkel got it. Family really does matter.

This mantra is especially true when it comes to cultural relocation. The truth is that it really doesn’t matter if you are moving your family across the ocean or across the state, you will face many of the common cultural relocation challenges, albeit to varying degrees. Focusing on the big move, however, let’s take a few minutes to honestly address the importance of family cohesion during this process.

Often overlooked or taken for granted, after over a decade of coaching folks for cross-cultural transition I can honestly say that family is one the most, if not the most important factors affecting expat longevity and success. Fortunately, we can now predict the likelihood of this factor negatively affecting your mission, but the fact remains that if we do nothing with this knowledge, we take a significant risk for the task, host natives, and most importantly, the health and well-being of your family.

Relocation can be tough on families. Oftentimes, one spouse will blame the other for the challenges, leaving the children confused and upset.

We could go on for an entire day as we attempt to cover all the elements related to family in cultural relocation, but for the purposes of brevity, let’s focus on a big one: communication. That’s right, communication. You may have expected some earth-shattering revelation here, but once again, common sense rules the day. Nonetheless, couples and families often overlook the importance of communication when considering a big transition. For example, Scott and Robin were married only three years when they decided to enter the mission field. At approximately 30 years old, they were both passionate about serving others outside the comforts of America. One would assume that given the newness of their marriage, a semblance of mission cohesion and desire, and a shared willingness to sell everything and move across the globe, that everything was in-line for a successful relocation. Wrong. The underlying reality, revealed via the Go Culture International initial assessment, was that though each spouse wanted to do international missions, they wanted to go in different directions (literally). One wanted one continent, with a very specific ministry in mind, while the other wanted a different continent without a direct ministry in mind. No big deal, right?

It turns out that after we reach what Knapp refers to the Bonding stage of relational development, we tend to reduce our quality and quantity of communication with our spouses. This is normal, but when we are facing a life-altering situation like major relocation, we need to earnestly seek communication with our travel partner. With this couple, we had to pump the brakes just a little while encouraging them to talk this out until they came to a shared vision. They did, and they are now in full-on prep mode for life abroad. No one was pressured and no one had to have his or her way. Instead, they prayed together, sought council, and TALKED openly to each other about goals, desires, and needs.

Notice, however, that this challenge already existed under the surface; we just brought it to their attention and then initiated a process of cultivating communication. It was truly fascinating to see them work through this decision-making process so that they don’t get on the field in a few months with one of them silently unhappy. If you have been married for any length of time at all, you know that this subtle unhappiness can lead to major relationship problems, problems that manifest themselves in so many unrelated areas. In other words, had we not caught this underlying and hidden issue ahead of departure, this couple would have likely soon joined the other 64% of expats who return early.

Do yourself and those whom you coach or care about a favor. Before making this big transition, take the steps to ensure success. You owe it to yourself and your family. When the chips are down, these may be the only people who really watch your back, so you want to take great care of them. Don’t be fooled by what seems to be total approval of this upcoming move, or assume that your kids will get over their fears of entering a new school abroad. What we covered today is only one of a myriad of potential family issues during cultural relocation. Contact Go Culture International today to learn how you can take the necessary steps to ensure a successful transition for you and your family. Because family matters.