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Maintaining good mental health for teenagers when you’re moving abroad

Coping with stress in expat teens

International relocation requires careful planning and naturally comes with a set of pressures and responsibilities. Aetna International understands it can be an uncertain time for the whole family. We offer guidance and support, helping to replace your uncertainty with order, and anxiety with excitement. With the right care, you can ensure you and your children are set up for the best experience possible in your new country.

On your mind

As well as managing your own move-associated stresses, you’ll be thinking about your family, and may well be concerned about your children’s mental well-being.

Children are often considered resilient and able to adjust surprisingly quickly to new circumstances. That said, an international move is a big lifestyle shift and the decision to move is often out of their hands. Your children won’t feel the same sense of control that you do, and consequently may become quietly consumed with worry, or outwardly fretful. Your attention will be on finding the right school, (following familiar curriculums and syllabi where possible), addressing work-life balance, welcoming cultural difference, and planning ways to network and socialise.

Pre-trip planning with Aetna International will allow you to fully embrace your pending work assignment and imminent change in lifestyle.

Typical teenage behaviour

Stress in children can manifest itself in many ways and it can be very easy for us to think that mental health issues are something that affect other families. It’s not uncommon for parents to wonder whether their child is ‘just being a teen’ or showing symptoms of mental health issues.

If we reflect on our own teenage years, it’s likely we’ll remember behaviours commonly associated with puberty including feelings of being misunderstood, battles with complexion and a surge of hormone-related drama. Certain behaviours are to be expected in teenage years, and hormonal and physical shifts are often the root cause. Your teenager is likely to spend more time in their room, on their phone, gaming, or attached to a device linked in to social media. Separating themselves from their family, craving distance, privacy, and asserting independence are all to be expected.

Your teenager will hopefully still be enjoying time with friends and engage in healthy social activities outside of the home. Maintaining an open dialogue with your teenager, educating them on your new destination, and talking to them about exciting opportunities your family will have abroad, will all help in keeping them buoyant and optimistic.

Pressures on teenagers

Many teenagers are challenged further, with issues around mental health, possibly relating to bullying, exam pressure, identity crisis, sexual orientation, parental separation and sibling rivalry. The effects of these challenges will be compounded when confronted with an international move, causing temporary upheaval.

If your teen has episodes of sadness, anxiety, frustration and feelings of being overwhelmed or appears chronically disconnected for more than a few days, you may wish to consider seeking professional help. Signs and symptoms to look out for include:

  • Decrease in enjoyment and time spent with friends and family
  • Significant decrease in school performance
  • Strong resistance to attending school or absenteeism
  • Problems with memory, attention or concentration
  • Big changes in energy levels, eating or sleeping patterns
  • Physical symptoms (stomach aches, headaches, backaches)
  • Feelings of hopelessness, sadness, anxiety, crying often
  • Frequent aggression, disobedience or lashing out verbally
  • Excessive neglect of personal appearance or hygiene
  • Substance abuse, self-harm
  • Dangerous or illegal thrill-seeking behaviour
  • Is overly suspicious of others
  • Sees or hears things that others do not

Aetna International’s expertise

We have a sound clinical understanding of health issues that affect teenagers, and understand the stability of teenagers can be significantly impacted by life-changing decisions. In a study of expatriate individuals and their families recently commissioned by Aetna International, it was found that far more people seek mental health treatment post-relocation than expected during their pre-relocation planning phase*.

We have extensive clinical experience, and a team of highly-skilled medical experts who can help coordinate every aspect of your medical care, including transportation in urgent medical care situations, as well as support for those coping with mental health issues in teenagers. Our Care and Response Excellence (CARE) team works with members to help ensure that they, and their family, are kept in the best possible health through the move itself, and while they’re settling into their new surroundings overseas. Aetna International work with international organisations, implementing strategies and ensuring a smooth transition overseas for families.

Coping techniques and where to get help:

  • Speak to people, including your international Private Medical Insurance (iPMI) partner, who know the region you’re moving to. Find out about health care facilities. Talk to colleagues. Chat to other parents or contact organisations to compare teenage behaviour across peers.
  • Prior to relocation, familiarise yourself with expat networks, gym memberships, clubs and social groups. It will be helpful if you can speak the language of your country. Consider this as part of your planning.
  • Check whether mental health support and treatment are available via your private health insurance. Most do, but it’s important to be sure. Additionally, it may be wise to check your policy will be valid outside your home country. Certain Aetna International plans will cover access to outpatient treatment including counselling and mental health support.
  • If your move is career orientated, speak to the client/employer that has assigned you internationally. They have a responsibility, to support you in your move, and your iMPI provider should be able to provide guidance to ensure your assignment is a success.
  • Certain group policies make an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) benefit available to employees and their dependents It is a work-based intervention program designed to assist employees in resolving a broad range of personal problems that may be adversely affecting the employee's performance. EAP plans are usually 100% paid by the employer.

At Aetna International, our claims data (2014 – 2015) shows that outpatient costs for access to therapists and counselling is on the rise, and we’re proud to provide high-quality, accessible health insurance plans, and member services tailored to meet the needs of individuals.

With an Aetna International policy, you can talk to someone who has the knowledge and the power to help, supporting your well-being 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. For more information, contact one of our expert consultants.

Aetna® is a trademark of Aetna Inc. and is protected throughout the world by trademark registrations and treaties.

*Pioneering Change: Evaluating consumer perspectives of iPMI. A quantitative market study, July 2016 

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