Episode 33: Raising global teenagers, with Dr Anisha Abraham

Isabelle Roughol
Isabelle Roughol

Hormones, acne, heartbreak… and figuring out what country you even belong to. Adolescence is even trickier when you’re a global kid.

Kids who grow up between cultures develop invaluable skills. But having to figure out one’s cultural identity, on top of the usual teenage challenges, can make adolescence even harder. Mental health, belonging, conflict, rites of passage… A pediatrician who specializes in multicultural teenagers helps parents navigate a challenging decade.

Show notes

00:32 Intro
02:26 What is a teenager?
07:00 Inside the teenage brain
09:38 Global living makes adolescence trickier
11:24 The importance of telling your story
14:08 The mental health challenges of global teens
20:47 Conflict resolution, prolonged adolescence and grief in global teens
26:31 Screamers, mirrors and wallflowers
28:44 The adults global teens become
32:35 Outro

Sources & further reading

🎬 One Small Visit. A short film in pre-production, directed by Jo Chim, on the Abrahams’ true story.
📚 Raising Global Teens: A Practical Handbook for Parenting in the 21st Century. By Dr Anisha Abraham. 2020. Buy in US. Buy in UK.
📚 Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. By Ruth Van Reken, David Pollock and Michael Pollock. 2017 (3rd edition). Buy in US. Buy in UK.


Transcript

Transcripts are published for your convenience, but they are automated and not always cleaned up. Please excuse typos and occasional nonsense, and always check the audio before quoting.

Anisha Abraham: [00:00:00] A very important part of adolescence is discovering your physical identity and being over time comfortable with your body as it is. Another is becoming accustomed to what your gender and sexual identity is. But if you throw on top of that your cultural identity, there's a lot that you need to develop and to think about. Who is your tribe? What is your true identity?

[00:00:32] Intro

[00:00:32] Isabelle Roughol: [00:00:32] Hi, I'm Isabelle Roughol and this is the new Borderline.

[00:00:37] Well, the podcast hasn't changed much, but everything else has. You might have noticed some new cover art, but most importantly, there's a brand new site at borderlinepod.com, that is sleek and easier to use and generally beautiful. You'll find every episode, every transcript. You'll be able to sign up for the newsletter, which is free, but also from now on, you'll find a lot more content with articles that didn't make either the podcast or the newsletter. Because I have so much more to share. I'll be writing more about building a thriving global life and career, as well as what's going on in the news.

[00:01:07] Now is a great time to become a member. Not only will you be helping me keep Borderline going, but a lot of these articles will be just for members. There's a weekly newsletter curating the best stuff I'm reading. Members get the podcast early, they get to comment on the site, weekly calls with me and the rest of the community, and soon a proper platform for us to chat.

[00:01:26] So go to borderlinepod.com and hit subscribe. I look forward to welcoming you to the Borderline community. Welcome this week to Mark Jerome and Lauren Razavi and welcome again to Ana Milicevic and John Crowley.

[00:01:38] Now on to this week's episode, we're moving away from politics for once and into the home and the family. I chatted with Dr Anisha Abraham, she's a pediatrician and a global citizen herself, the daughter of Indian immigrants to the United States. She's married to a German man, has two multicultural and impressively multilingual children. She's lived all over the world in the Netherlands and Hong Kong. In her professional practice, she focuses on multicultural young people, like third culture kids, immigrant kids, kids in military communities. She has recently published a book called Raising Global Teens about the very unique challenges of a global adolescence. This one is for the parents and for anyone shaped by a multicultural youth, which in my case, I like to delude myself, wasn't that long ago.

02:26 What is a teenager?

So before we start talking about global teens, I think we just should talk about teens, period. It's been a little while for me, but let’s get kind of a reminder of what do we mean by teens? And what is a teenage brain? What's going on in the mind of a teenager?

[00:02:46] Anisha Abraham: [00:02:46] Well, I can talk about teenagers all day long. It's certainly something that I'm very passionate about. But I will just say that teenagers are about ages 12 through 21, although that certainly can vary depending on what country you live in. I will also say that a lot of behaviors and a lot of what we're talking about in terms of puberty and changes are now occurring at earlier ages. And so we're seeing young people as early as 10 or 11 that are really going through pubertal changes and all of the other things that go along with being an adolescent.

[00:03:17] And what we know about teen brain development. Is that the brain continues to develop until you're 25. So even though you think you're done with adolescence in fact, there's a lot of changes that are continuing to occur.

[00:03:29] So adolescence is this wonderful time between again childhood and adulthood. I think it's an important time because so much of what we see in terms of morbidity and mortality as an adult has a lot of links to what's occurring during the teen years. For example, alcohol use or mental health issues or any of these other things. And so I think spending time and really making sure that young people do well during their adolescence has such an incredible benefit in terms of what happens during their adulthood.

[00:04:00] Adolescence is a universal concept

[00:04:00] Isabelle Roughol: [00:04:00]  it's interesting. You said in passing "depending on the culture that you're in." Is adolescence something that exists everywhere? Because I think we have this picture of you know, kind of post-World War Two, American consumerist society that kind of invented being a teenager. So how does that work across other cultures?

[00:04:21] Anisha Abraham: [00:04:21] That's a really interesting question. And I would say that the short answer is that adolescence is a universal concept. And certainly in all the places that I've lived in, young people go through very similar changes, both physically and socially, and psycho-socially, during adolescence.

[00:04:41] Whether again this is a concept that's recognized can very much vary and certainly in some places I've lived in, for example, in the Netherlands, this is a very important time where kids are also developing autonomy and becoming more independent from their parents. Whereas in other cultures, for example, when I lived in Hong Kong and in Asia, there's still a bit more of a sense that there's this interdependence and very much so kids remain living with their parents and talking to them and communicating about decisions and so on till perhaps later on in their life.

[00:05:14] I also will just say that in different countries the cutoff, in terms of when they assume someone is an adult, may be a little bit earlier, say 18 in certain countries. But I will say more and more, we're seeing that this period of time is becoming extended, that more and more young people are either studying, are perhaps working, but are not completely independent until later in life. And perhaps during the Industrial Revolution and previous times, we saw that people that were adolescents were actually getting married, were in the workforce, were becoming much more independent outside of their own families and parents.

[00:05:54] So I think that there's a shift in terms of young people staying adolescents for a longer period of time, and certainly something that we need to be much more aware of in terms of how we can support and protect them.

[00:06:06] Isabelle Roughol: [00:06:06] That's cultural rather than biological, right? The biology hasn't fundamentally changed just because calling them now.

[00:06:16] Anisha Abraham: [00:06:16] Right. No the biology has remained the same. I would probably say that we're maybe seeing some of these changes at earlier ages. And it used to be that someone would be considered having early pubertal changes if they occurred by age 10. And now there's been a shift to earlier, to say age eight in a girl. So we're seeing young people and girls in particular starting their menstrual cycles. And some of these other changes at earlier and earlier age groups. And we certainly know that kids are becoming more sophisticated also at younger ages, certainly with their exposure to things like social media and media in general. So I'd probably say that that age span has increased in terms of what we may think of as adolescence.

[00:07:00] Inside the teenage brain

[00:07:00] Isabelle Roughol: [00:07:00]  So what are some of those changes? How does like a teenage brain differ from an adult brain?

[00:07:07] Anisha Abraham: [00:07:07] Well, that's a great question. And I would say that there's two main concepts when it comes to the teen brain.

[00:07:13] The first has to do with the fact that with the developing brain, it takes some time before all of the connections, all of the synapses are fully connected. I kind of use a metaphor of having some kind of a stereo system where many of the connections are not completely connected in, and it isn't till later in adolescence, all of those synapses and connections are fully being made. And all of the gray matter is fully kind of being mature.

[00:07:41] And along with that, what we see is if there is an immature brain, young people when they're exposed to anything high-risk, for example, if they're exposed to alcohol or drugs, are more likely to have little changes in their brain that are irreversible compared to someone where the brain is fully developed.

[00:07:58] And so a lot of my work with young people and also with families and parents is trying to prevent behaviors like smoking cigarettes at early ages or using alcohol at early ages, knowing that young people are more likely to stay addicted or to have, again, these changes that occur if they start at an early age. The same thing goes for things like being exposed to chronic stress or restricting their eating. All of these things can have changes and certainly effects on the developing brain as compared to the brain that's fully developed later in adolescence.

[00:08:31] The other concept that I think is really important is the concept of having something called the prefrontal cortex versus the limbic system. And the prefrontal cortex is kind of the area right in the front of the brain. It's the command center of the brain. And it helps young people and certainly adults to think about consequences of actions: if I do this, then something is going to happen. And then again, that is not developed until later in adolescence.

[00:08:58] But what's really strong during the adolescent period, and you might even remember this yourself, is something called the limbic system, which is trying and testing things out, and pleasure and reward. So a really normal part of adolescence is actually experimenting and trying things out. And I tell kids all the time that they can blame their brain as a work in progress when they sometimes are doing things that are a little bit kind of impulsive or trying things out. But a lot of what we need to be doing is also helping kids to make good decisions and to protect the brain that they have.

[00:09:29] Isabelle Roughol: [00:09:29] Hmm, that's a good excuse that I didn't think of when I was a teenager. Sorry Mom, it's my brain.

[00:09:35] Anisha Abraham: [00:09:35] Yes, it is. It's my brain in action.

[00:09:38] Global living makes adolescence trickier

[00:09:38] Isabelle Roughol: [00:09:38] So given that reality that you have this more malleable brain and less impulse control, what does it do to a teen to be either moving frequently or having a foot in different cultures or to be living somewhere unfamiliar or communicating in a foreign language, all these things that are part of a global childhood or global adolescence. How does that impact them differently than it would impact an adult going through that?

[00:10:07] Anisha Abraham: [00:10:07] Well, I'll say that globalization has given wonderful opportunities to have young people travel and move from place to place and be exposed to different languages and different cultures. But it also makes adolescence just a little bit more complicated. And I say that because a very important part of adolescence is discovering your physical identity and being over time, comfortable with your body as it is. Another important part of adolescence is becoming accustomed to what your gender and sexual identity is. But if you throw on top of that your cultural identity, there's a lot that you need to develop and to think about.

[00:10:44] So again, I think there's some wonderful opportunities that we see for kids that are cross-cultural, that have been moving from place to place, that are even going from one community to another, much less one country to another, or have parents from different backgrounds, or are exposed to more than one culture. And again, those strengths include tolerance and a world view, and being adaptable. But the challenges can include the fact that you're not quite sure where you belong, you know? Who is your tribe? What is your true identity? And certainly there can also be issues related to grief and loss every time you move from one place to the other.

[00:11:24] The importance of telling your story

Isabelle Roughol: [00:11:24] That sense of identity and belonging is definitely something that, I mean, it's kind of the red thread throughout this podcast. And so many people that I talk to, it's like when you ask, "where is home?" you can't answer that, can you?

[00:11:36] Anisha Abraham: [00:11:36] No, it's not an easy question. And I think that more and more, it's one that we have to help kids define. And a lot of what I talk to parents and young people about is, what is your story? And encouraging families to talk about that personal story. We all have that story.

[00:11:54] My parents had their story. They had an arranged marriage, and my mother was living in Kuwait. My dad was living in India. He took a Spanish cargo ship from India to the United States, in the sixties and came to this country. My father-in-law was living during the time of world war II. My mother-in-law in Germany saw the wall being built in Germany, between East and West Germany.

[00:12:21] So we all have these stories. And being able to share those stories about our identity and our belonging and certainly some of the challenges are so important. And when we don't share those stories, they sometimes can also fester inside. So I think it's really important to be able to talk about these stories as we talk about creating connections and helping our kids with their own identity.

[00:12:42] Having multiple identities in an era that asks you to choose your tribe

Isabelle Roughol: [00:12:42] I wonder what that means for a global teen, from a multinational family, when we live in an era where you're very much being asked to choose your tribe. And in fact, these families have multiple tribes right?

[00:12:58] Anisha Abraham: [00:12:58] Right. I think that the answer is that with that multiple tribes also comes the ability to talk about issues related to tolerance and understanding. And I think that parents have such a wonderful opportunity to model this behavior in terms of really encouraging their own kids to show that they are open to people of different backgrounds, people that potentially are minorities or have had very different life experiences.

[00:13:29] I certainly think it's an important time for parents to do things like volunteer in the community, to read books, to have discussions with their kids, and certainly based on their age, about some of the challenges that are out there and how there are ways to surmount and to create connections. I think this is a really important time to again think about tolerance and awareness.

[00:13:49] And, I think that cross-cultural families are really that shining hope, because they're able to, again, bridge all of these different issues. And I think that there's a lot of opportunities that can come from that experience that these kids are having, these cross-cultural kids are having.

[00:14:06] Isabelle Roughol: [00:14:06] That's not without challenges.

[00:14:08] The mental health challenges of global teens

You, you were telling me when we were talking before, that mental health issues were very much front of mind for global teens. Can you tell me a bit more about that?

[00:14:17] Anisha Abraham: [00:14:17] Absolutely. I, I will say that this has been a very challenging time for kids around the world. Certainly the pandemic has really affected young people in terms of not being able to travel, not being able to have their normal routines, a loss of milestones, not again being able to do many of the activities that they usually will do. And it's increased the number of young people that I'm seeing in my daily practice and certainly I'm aware of, that are feeling anxious or depressed, and in some cases, even suicidal. So I think that these are really important issues that we need to be thinking about for all of our global and cross-cultural children and teenagers.

[00:15:03] I, in my book and certainly in my regular practice, talk about the importance of having connections with young people, that connections are so protective right now when kids are having these challenges. And then having regular conversations and checking in with young people about how they're doing, and how they're feeling, and what's going on in their lives, and what they're doing that's protective, is very, very important in terms of protecting against all of the concerns we have about mental health, particularly among cross-cultural kids.

[00:15:33] How to engage with a teen

Isabelle Roughol: [00:15:33] And we all know how easy it is to have a conversation with a teenager, right? How do you make that happen? How do you encourage those conversations? You know, when we know teenagers can be quite sullen and mute.

[00:15:49] Anisha Abraham: [00:15:49] Well, I, I certainly get that question quite often and I will say that, of course it may not be easy. And a very important part of being a teenager is also striving for autonomy and becoming more independent and, at some level, perhaps pulling away from parents and wanting to spend more time with peer group or alone in your room and doing other things.

[00:16:10] But I do think that parents and caregivers and family members have an important opportunity to stay connected, now perhaps more than ever.

[00:16:19] And so a couple of tips. The first I would say is if you are with a young person, trying to do activities in parallel. For example, when you're perhaps walking with them or driving a car with them, you're biking with them, so you're not looking then perhaps directly in their eyes, but you're doing something in parallel, is a wonderful opportunity to kind of check in and see what's going on in their lives, or certainly find out how they're doing.

[00:16:46] Along those lines, one of the things that I always do when I'm seeing young people is to ask first about what their friends or their peer group is doing. Because sometimes they don't want to talk about themselves, but it's easier to talk about what their friends are experiencing. So I will ask, are your friends feeling down or stressed or not feeling good about what's happening? Are your friends sometimes vaping or smoking or using alcohol? Or are you feeling pressure to sometimes use these things? And that then can be a very nice segue into what might be happening in their own lives.

[00:17:15] And the final point that I have for parents, and certainly guilty of this myself as a parent, is keeping things short. Again, thinking about teen brain development, sometimes they're not able to think about all of what we're saying when we have these very long, philosophic discussions about things. So sticking to what I call the 50% rule and saying half of what we intend to say and keeping things short and simple may actually be a good rule of thumb when you're communicating with a young person.

[00:17:43] Isabelle Roughol: [00:17:43]  That's that's interesting and definitely, definitely challenging. I think the second that you're a little bit removed from our teenage years, it's hard to remember that you weren't maybe capable of all the complexity that is in your brain as an adult.

[00:17:58] Anisha Abraham: [00:17:58] One of my favorite articles that I read in the New York Times was this concept that there's a lot that's going on during the teen years. And again, hormones really can make young people feel angry one moment and happy the next day. And there's a lot of ups and downs that happen, in terms of mood and changes. And that at the end of the day, many young people just want us to be like a houseplant. Just to be there, sometimes not saying anything, but just to be there, to provide love and support. And I think that's an important message for many parents is just to realize that our kids want us there. They want our unconditional love and support. And sometimes that can be a really important thing. It can go a long way.

[00:18:40] Avoid moving teenagers... if you can

Isabelle Roughol: [00:18:40] Are there other techniques, other ways? Is there a better age, for instance, for changing countries? Is there, is there an age when you really ideally shouldn't which isn't always easy...

[00:18:51] Anisha Abraham: [00:18:51] Well, I think that the teen years are certainly a more challenging time for these changes to occur. As I mentioned again, it's a time where there's so much else in terms of examination and doubt and self scrutiny, so adding onto that, an international move and losing supports in one place, losing those connections, can be challenging.

[00:19:14] So I tell families if they have the opportunity to perhaps minimize those changes during the teen years, but I certainly know, and I work with many communities -- I'm currently working with the State Department and a lot of families that are in transition -- I know that these things can sometimes be unavoidable, that you may have to make that move.

[00:19:33] And I think also that those changes can sometimes be a wonderful opportunity to build resilience and to build on these ideas of handling challenge and handling disappointment. So again, the short answer is, if you can minimize it, wonderful. But if not, understanding your teen, certainly again taking the time to really understand how they're doing and processing all of it, building on those connections in a new community, continuing to support them, is really important as they're preparing for a move or a change.

[00:20:05] Isabelle Roughol: [00:20:05] I was talking to one of my listeners recently who grew up as a kid of a diplomat and moved around often. And she pointed to a few things that I thought were really interesting. One was that it wasn't that hard because they were part of an institution like the State Department, that is so used to this and had kind of the structures in place and that diplomat housing looks the same everywhere around the world. So really it like barely feels like you're moving. So there were some elements of continuity, like American bases around the world that all have the same supermarkets that are set up in the same way, for instance.

[00:20:47] Conflict resolution, prolonged adolescence and grief in global teens

[00:20:47] But another thing that she pointed out is that she had almost come to rely on moving every few years and therefore, never really needed to solve problems in relationships or anything because she knew she would be gone anyway the next year or so, or even sooner. And that has kind of followed into adult life. Are you seeing that as well?

[00:21:11] Anisha Abraham: [00:21:11] I think what you're bringing up is really important concepts that we do see with young people that are cross-cultural and have had frequent changes from place to place. And it's this idea that conflict resolution may be a little bit more challenging, it's easier just to know that you're gonna leave at some point than really sometimes having to resolve those challenges or issues. And so certainly adults have mentioned that this can be really hard for them because they're just used to kind of getting up and moving and not having to deal with sometimes these issues.

[00:21:41] I will also say that there's some thought that adolescence can also be prolonged for young people that are moving from place to place because they are not going through perhaps the same changes that other kids are, that are seeing things that are perhaps homogenous, that everyone else has kind of like them. Particularly when you come to a new community or culture, people may have different ways of handling things. And so you tend to perhaps not be able to do the same level of experimentation. You may not be able to really rely on the people around you in terms of knowing what to do next or your family may not. So there's also this concept of a more prolonged adolescence as well.

[00:22:17] And I think the final concept that's so important that we can't underestimate is this idea of grief and loss. That again, when young people are moving from place to place, there can be this profound sense of losing what they've had in one place and being able to rebuild that in the next.

[00:22:33] Moving around is hard on adults too

[00:22:33] And I would say it's not just for young people, but it's also for adults. No one really prepared me for the fact that when I was an adult and moving from country to country, that it would take me nearly two to three years with each move to get over that identity that I had both personally and professionally in each place. I just felt this profound sense of loss. It was really tough.

[00:22:54] There were days sometimes I would cry and really, really be down. So I started researching my own book, Raising Global Teens, and really looking into this phenomenon that I had some insight into my own experiences of change. So I would say for any listener that's out there, it's not just children, it's also adults. And we need to be really aware of, again, the wonderful things that can happen with these changes, but also some of the challenges and again, really being prepared to talk about it, to get that support. I talk about the idea of having a global village and making sure that we're connecting with all the people that are out there that can support us as we're experiencing these transitions and changes.

[00:23:33] Isabelle Roughol: [00:23:33] Absolutely. And I've noticed too, cause it's something that I personally did for the first time when I was 17. But then throughout my twenties and thirties, I've moved to a new country every two to five years, depending. And it just gets harder and harder because the older you get, the harder it is to make new social connections, and you don't have school or university anymore to make a bunch of new friends every semester when you change classes and everything.

[00:24:02] So, I just got to the point that I decided fairly recently and I'm in my late thirties, that I was done doing that and I'm going to try to make things work where I am right now because it's exhausting. And it is, it is a profound loss every time. And I really feel the loss more strongly as I get older, every time.

[00:24:24] Anisha Abraham: [00:24:24] Right. And and I hear you. And I would also say that it's even harder to move during a pandemic, where you're not necessarily able to say goodbye to the people in one country and even be able to connect with people in X. So, it can become a little bit more challenging as you get older. I think some people relish it and they do well with it, but for others, they realize that it can be really hard to do it.

[00:24:45] And I will say just in my own family, we recently moved back in the fall from the Netherlands to the United States, but there can be big differences within how different people address this. My older son seems to do perfectly fine with the move back, was very excited to be back in the United States. My second son is still to a certain extent in mourning, that we left the Netherlands, which he considers his country. And he's a bit angry as to why we left this place that he had so many connections and so many friends and really identifies. And along those lines, we actually ended up getting a pandemic puppy because it really for us was a source of support, and brought a lot of joy to our family because moving has been hard. And again, particularly during a pandemic where you don't perhaps see kids face to face, and you're not able to make those connections in the same way.

[00:25:34] Isabelle Roughol: [00:25:34] And the whole idea of moving back. I mean, I had a guest a few weeks ago. So she's from Iran, but she's been living in Britain for a long time now. And she said, if I moved back, it would be a second immigration. Because if you've been gone long enough home has changed and you have too, and so it's almost like moving to a new country again.

[00:25:58] Anisha Abraham: [00:25:58] Absolutely. We took our first road trip recently with the boys and we drove from Washington DC to Florida. And it was almost like being in a new country. We ourselves were suddenly kind of getting used to all of the things that we were seeing along the way. And of course, lots has changed. But I agree with you: in some ways coming home, even though you think it's home, home has changed and your own idea of what you need and who you are has also profoundly changed. So, it is a very interesting process to come back to that place that you thought of as where your identity was or where you were born.

[00:26:31] Screamers, mirrors and wallflowers

[00:26:31] Isabelle Roughol: [00:26:31] Hmm. So another thing that, just going back to your answer earlier, when you were talking about prolonged adolescence, the difficulties of getting social cues from the people around you. What I've found certainly in my experience, and I wondered your thoughts about this, is that it just becomes really difficult to understand what the rules are, right? Because social rules and expectations are different in every culture. And it's not like you can flip a switch and be like, "Oh, I'm in the US" or "I'm in Britain," so these are the rules. It's just you start creating a mix in your own head and you're not quite sure which rule belongs to where.

[00:27:09]  and so sometimes even with my people, quote unquote, in France, I behave in ways that are like, "Oh, you're a bit American." So it's hard to know exactly how to behave socially, if that makes sense.

[00:27:23] Anisha Abraham: [00:27:23] Absolutely. I think you're bringing up a very important point. And certainly we know this from literature and from research. And I will also just mention the book Third Culture Kids by Ruth van Reken and David Pollock has kind of being a similar book talking about these issues.

[00:27:40] Each young person takes on a very different identity when they come to a new place. They can act as a foreigner or hidden immigrant or adoptee or mirror. So every young person has a different way that they kind of take on that community. And some people may end up being chameleons and blending in really well, others might try to stick out. They call them screamers. Some of them may become wallflowers and become invisible and others can adapt perfectly well.

[00:28:06] So there's many different ways that young people experience different cultures. And certainly this idea, again, that when you're in a culture that's different from your own, you don't see the same mirrors. Young people are not going through the same rites of passage at the same time. And that can be challenging also. And I've seen that myself when we've lived in different countries with adolescents there. So being aware of that, being attuned to it, talking about it, supporting kids, if you're a parent or caregiver, reading about it, these are really important in terms of, again, helping kids experience different cultures through adolescence.

[00:28:44] The adults global teens become

[00:28:44] Isabelle Roughol: [00:28:44] Hmm. That's really interesting, the diversity of these experiences. And it's a good, it's a good reminder because I'm definitely a big proponent of global childhood and global youth. But I think probably the only really examples that I have in mind and that I bring forward are definitely the very successful ones. But I do want, to conclude our conversation, definitely want to get back to what are those, those advantages and that skillset that those young people build. Because I have seen just incredibly mature, open, compassionate, young people coming out of that experience of having a global background. And I tell every parent I know that their kids should at least be an exchange student at some point. And the younger, the better: don't wait for university.  so am I right? Am I right to recommend that? And, what are you seeing in terms of the adults that these kids become?

[00:29:42] Anisha Abraham: [00:29:42] Right. I will still continue to agree with you in terms of the wonderful experiences that come out of having this cross-cultural experience and the fact that more and more young people are having that. Again, you don't need to go very far, just moving from one place to the other or being exposed to more than one culture in your daily life is enough to again get that cross cultural experience, much less again moving from country to country. And the The upsides again are this idea of being empathetic, being tolerant, being aware, being open to change. I mean, these are such wonderful qualities that we need right now in a time where there is so much polarization. And, a time where I think there can be really big challenges in terms of accepting others as they are.

[00:30:26] Also the ability to speak different languages. I saw that in my own kids. When we lived in Hong Kong, they started to learn Mandarin and my husband is German, so they speak German. When we lived in the Netherlands, they had to learn Dutch. And they each picked up another language, Spanish and French. And that is to me wonderful because I can say as an adult, it's a lot harder to pick up these languages. And I struggled with picking up these languages, but,being able to learn languages is much easier when you're a young person. And I think that it just gives you an entree into being able to work and to communicate in so many different ways when you even have that ability to think or speak in another language.

[00:31:05] So there's some incredible strengths that come with this experience. And I think it's so important for, again, parents to expose kids to more than one culture if they can. Certainly this ability to have international experiences through travel or study abroad or work abroad, these were all very formative experiences for me when I was growing up, to be able to live abroad. I lived in Panama. I worked as a physician, when I was a medical student, in India and then continued to have those experiences throughout my own youth and young adulthood. And I think those are really formative experiences and ones that we need to continue to encourage again, given how polarized and challenging our world has become.

[00:31:51] Isabelle Roughol: [00:31:51] Hm. And that builds so much resilience as well.

[00:31:56] Anisha Abraham: [00:31:56] Absolutely. And I'll just end by saying that I believe that one of the biggest predictors of success for young people is not having perfect grades or being well-rounded and doing every last activity or even getting into the top university or having a perfect job. But it's this ability to have what I call balance: being able to get up on your feet after you've experienced a challenge or disappointment. And I do think again, being cross-cultural and having those experiences give young people a tremendous ability to build on resilience and to build on this concept of balance. And that's a wonderful gift that we can give young people.

[00:32:35] Outro

[00:32:35] Isabelle Roughol: [00:32:39] Thank you so much to Dr. Anisha Abraham. Her book is Raising Global Teens. Anisha is also producing a short movie on a wonderful, true family anecdote of her Indian immigrant grandparents knocking on Neil Armstrong's door in middle America shortly after he'd returned from the moon. If you're curious, links as always in the show notes.

[00:32:57] And a personal apology: my family moved when I was 15. And let's just say I was not the kindest about it. I'm sorry, Dad. It was just my teenage brain.

[00:33:09] I'm your host, Isabelle Roughol. Music is by Ofshane. Borderline is a One Lane Bridge production.

PodcastEducationGlobal lives

Isabelle Roughol

Journalist. Founder & host of Borderline. Former international editor of LinkedIn, foreign editor at Le Figaro, reporter at The Cambodia Daily. Global soul, messy accent.


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