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By World Family Education

Transitions are critical points of major upheaval for all families. Living internationally can add an extra element of stress beyond the typical pressures families face during life changes. Giving up familiar routines, relationships, and environments is always a challenge, but there is often a payoff. And that’s a whole new life adventure.

Stages of Transition

Transitioning well takes time and involves several stages. To identify those stages visually, Norwegian scientist Sverre Lysgaard created the U-shaped Curve of Cultural Adjustment (1955):

The four Stages of Cross-Cultural Adjustment
illustrated by David Bourdin

The stages are described as:

  1. honeymoon/elation   The person enters the new culture with a positive outlook and excitement about their new adventure.
  2. crisis/culture shock/hostility   When excitement begins to wear off, frustration and stress set in. The person begins to see the many challenges of life in a new culture and may grieve the loss of the culture they left behind. They may wonder if they made a terrible mistake.
  3. recovery/surface adjustment   As time goes on, the person becomes more comfortable in the new setting. They form new friendships and create new, familiar routines.
  4. adjustment/integration/mastery   A successful transition will lead to integration with the new culture. The person may not adjust 100 percent, but they become accepting of and more comfortable within their new environment.

Not everyone will experience every stage, but it’s helpful to identify some traits of the transition process and know you’re not alone.

Key Transitions

Read more about each of these major transition points at World Family Education:

Moving Internationally for the First Time — Suggestions and resources for transitioning well to a new culture.

Starting at a New School — The challenges of starting at a new school and how to make a good adjustment.

Transition from Traditional School to Home Education as well as the Transition from Home Education to Traditional School — Expectations and challenges with the adjustment to either traditional school or home education for students transitioning between educational systems.

Preparing for UniversitySuggestions and resources for students living internationally as they plan for university.

Returning Home — The challenges of repatriation and why it’s so difficult.

Other helpful pages at World Family Education:

Culture Shock — A description of this very common experience of the international traveler.

Finding Community in a New Culture — Why community is vital to your family’s success living internationally and suggestions for where to find it.

A great way to support your family is by using the services of a counselor or coach experienced with cross-cultural issues. Visit the Family Counseling and Coaching page for a directory of professionals. Seeking help doesn’t mean your family isn’t adjusting well; it means that you desire more tools to help your family thrive.

Also check the Transitions Seminars & Support page at World Family Education for a list of organizations that provide help for international families in transition.

More perspectives about transitions:

Creating Smooth Transitions — RAFT — A process to help families leave well, created by David Pollock, an authority on third culture kids. SIL summarizes the process at their Global TCK Care & Education site.

Transitions: A Lifelong Process — Suggestions for ways to make transitions successful at SIL’s Global TCK Care & Education site.

Homeschooling Your Kids Through Military Life Transitions — U.S. military mom describes the way her family uses home education to provide stability as they go through transitions at

How to Effectively Manage and Thrive Through Transitions — Seven strategies to deal with transitions successfully at InterNations.

The transition that never ends: The ongoing cycle of expat Stayers, Goers, and Newbies — The challenges of transitions, no matter how long you live internationally, and how we can support one another at The Culture Blend.