Handling Difficult Situations at Home From Abroad

Updated: Jan 29

You may have to deal with some difficult situations back home while you are working abroad.  It’s important to think carefully about how to cope with these situations to keep a good relationship with your family and also to make sure that this does not affect your work in Hong Kong.  Here is an example of a difficult situation you might face:


Situation: You have been working in Hong Kong for five years in order to put your two children through school, you love them so much and want the best for them.  This is your dream, and you are working hard for it. One day, a close family member calls you and tells you your son has been expelled from school due to poor results and bad behaviour.


This may be a big disappointment for you and be emotional hearing this news. You may feel the impulse to show sadness, disappointment or anger. However, being abroad may make this situation difficult or sensitive.


Showing disappointments by getting angry will create a gap in the relationship. If you show anger, there may be push back from your loved-ones and they can withdraw from you. We need to show and let them feel that we are with them, in whatever tough situations they are into - that we want to help and understand. This response shows them they can be open with you and allow you to make the situation better, together. 


We are people with emotions that can affect our day to day. It is also important to think about how situations like these might affect your work  


Situation: After you find out about your son being expelled from school, you try very hard to stay focused on your job even though you are really disappointed and don’t really know how to deal with the situation back home.  Unfortunately, even though you are trying hard, you seem to be making a lot of mistakes and your employer notices this. One day, your employer asks you ‘is something wrong?’


How would you respond?


Be aware that you have the right not to disclose information - this is your private, personal life and if you do not feel like sharing the details with your employer, you should not feel pressured to do so. 


If you don’t wish to discuss the situation with your employer:

Still try and explain that you are going through a difficult time.  Your employer will be a lot more understanding if they are made aware that there is a reason for the sudden change. 


If you would like to discuss the situation with your employer:

  • Find the right time to discuss this - perhaps initiate the conversation with saying to your employer: “Excuse me ma’am, I’d like to talk to you about something.  Please let me know when you have the time”. By doing this, you are giving your employer a chance to schedule the talk for when they have time to sit and listen to what you have to say.  It will be a lot easier for both of you to have this conversation if it doesn’t happen at an inconvenient time

  • Before discussing the issue, you might want to think about what you would like to achieve with this conversation.  If you feel like there is some support you might need, this is something you can bring up to your employer. It might also be helpful for you to give the conversation a more professional focus.  You can explain why your work is affected but you can also make it clear that you are taking some steps to make sure that your work will not continue to be affected

  • Make sure you know your employer: what you should and should not share

  • Provide less detail, not more

  • Keep it short and simple


It is normal for difficult situations to arise while you are working from abroad. And it is also normal that you are affected by them. By being prepared with how to handle these situations will help you and your family succeed together in the long-term.

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