Published 26th February 2020
Teaching English Abroad as a Single Parent – Teaching English abroad is often considered the domain of the young and single, or the young and coupled up. While it is certainly true that a large percentage of TEFL teachers around the world are young(ish), this by no means means that there isn’t a place for older teachers, married teachers or even teachers with children, married or not.
We know by now that teaching in the same school as your partner is totally possible – or, at the very least the same city. We’ve also discussed how it’s possible to teach English abroad as a married couple, and still stay married;-)
Now let’s look at the issue of children. I mean, we all love kids and all, but they can make our lives pretty complicated, can’t they? All of a sudden we have to think of somebody else besides ourselves and our responsibility levels go through the roof. Nights in a dirty backpackers aren’t so appealing anymore, and neither are long hours at work.
So children can make things challenging but it can be even more complicated than that. It’s one thing teaching English abroad with children as a family, but it can be a totally different ball game if you are a single parent, which is a reality for many people. So let’s see how it’s possible to teach English abroad as a single parent.
The other parent
The first issue, of course, is the other parent. It is recommended that the travelling parent obtain written consent from the other parent if there is a shared custody arrangement or a relationship with the child. With the increase in child abductions (even within families) airport officials can be a bit sticky when it comes to single parent families so make sure you have all the paperwork necessary when you fly, just to be on the safe side.
Probably the biggest consideration when it comes to teaching English abroad as a single parent is the money. With two parents teaching it’s easily doable to support a family, just as it is with other professions. But when there is only one income it becomes a different matter.
There are certain countries where you wouldn’t earn enough as a TEFL teacher to support a child, unfortunately. However, all this means is that you need to be a bit selective when deciding where you want to teach. Choosing countries like South Korea or Saudi Arabia which offer attractive packages is a good idea, as you may be able to secure a good salary, as well as allowances for flights and accommodation.
If you find a job which offers you flights and accommodation, be upfront with the school as to your situation so you can discuss the logistics of including dependants in your package.
What is going to be best for your child in terms of education depends on which country you’re teaching in. It might be possible for your child to attend a public school but the language issue may make this difficult. This also depends on the age of your child. Usually in bigger cities where there are many expats, there are international schools which cater for expat children. This could be a good reason to look into countries which have large expat communities so you can be sure the community is well-established – such as Thailand, Hong Kong, Dubai, Argentina and many European countries. The downside of international schools are the high price tags but it’s possible to find jobs which will contribute if not sponsor your children’s education.
If your child is not yet at school, you will need to find out about the different childcare options available to you. Again this will differ according to where you are. In some countries, it’s customary to send young children to a crèche or daycare. In others you might be able to find an au pair to look after your child while you’re working. The good thing about teaching abroad is that your hours are not your usual 9 to 5 so you could finish early in the afternoon, but the negative is that you could be working evenings or weekends.
If you are going to be in a non-English speaking country, many people might worry about how your child will cope at school and in the community without speaking the language. How will they make friends? How will they get around? Well the simple answer is that they will do exactly the same as you. Children are remarkably adaptable and should have no problem socializing and acclimatizing to their new environment. Linguistically, immersion is known to be the best way to learn a language so simply being surrounded by the language means your children should pick it up relatively easily. In fact, you are providing your child with the perfect opportunity to learn a skill which will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
Teaching English abroad with children is not only completely doable but it’s an amazing opportunity for your children. What it means for you is that you need to be quite picky when deciding where to apply for jobs and careful when accepting a position. Always be very upfront with your school about your situation so that you don’t waste anyone’s time. At the end of the day, teaching English abroad is the same as any other job so your considerations if you have children will be the same if you were moving abroad for any other career.