Moving abroad can be an exciting, fulfilling and positive step. It can enrich both your career and your family life and help you achieve your goals. For young expats, the experience can be equally happy and rewarding yet the process can understandably induce a certain amount of anxiety and trepidation. Leaving friends and family behind and setting off into the unknown can lead to traumas, tantrums and tears. However, if you take some simple steps to ensure they are involved and engaged in the moving process, children and adults alike can make a smooth and cheerful transition. Here are our top tips for moving abroad with children;
Before You Go…Read Our Top Tips For Moving Abroad With Children
Prior to the Move
Get Them Involved
When faced with a move abroad, children can feel overwhelmed and cut off from the decision making process. Inviting your child to help make decisions whenever they can will help them feel involved in the move and give them ownership of the changes they are faced with.
They may not be able to have a say in which country you a moving to or where you are going to live, but they can make smaller decisions. Why not ask them to choose which bedroom they will have, which clubs they will join or which new places you will visit during your free time.
Research Your Destination
A key one of our tips for moving abroad with children is that when it comes to preparing a child for a move abroad, knowledge is power. Get online with them to find out as much as possible about your destination. Finding out all about the country will build their excitement about the move and help them feel familiar with their new home.
You and your son or daughter could make a scrapbook together, all about the country you are moving to. What are the local landmarks, attractions and festivals? Where is your new street? Where is their school? Are their any interesting traditions or customs specific to that city or country? There are endless questions to explore and answer.
Tell Them What To Expect
Running through exactly what will happen before, during and after traveling overseas will ease your child’s anxiety and take the fear out of the move. They will have endless questions about how you will get there, what you can pack, where you’re going to live and where they’re going to school. Taking time to answer these questions will help young ones feel more secure and confident about the move. Books such as Sammy’s Next Move and Moving Planet Isn’t Easy can also help children understand what is going to happen.
Taking time to prepare for the move and say goodbye to the people and places that are important to your offspring is a key part of the moving process. Your child needs to understand and accept that they will be leaving some things behind when they move and saying goodbye is an important part of this.
As well as ensuring your child has plenty of quality time with close family and friends before leaving, why not let your children plan a leaving party to say goodbye in a positive, happy way? Play games relating to your move; have a quiz about your destination country or ask friends to write messages or advice to pack away in a special keepsake box. You could even use the country you are moving to as inspiration for the party food and decorations.
When You Arrive…
Create a Safe Haven
When you arrive, your children will almost certainly be tired and a little overwhelmed by the journey. However tempting it may be to dive straight into unpacking pots and pans or exploring your new town or city, getting your child’s room set up and ready should be a priority.
Filling their room with old, treasured items such as their favourite bedclothes and stuffed toys will create a sanctuary of familiarity in a world of change and excitement. You will inevitably need a few new things, but involving your child in choosing and purchasing these items will remind them that the room is still very much ‘theirs’. While change and progress is stimulating and exhilarating, children also need a degree of stability and it’s important to give them somewhere that feels immediately like home.
Make Their First Day at School Special
One of the most nerve-racking parts of any child’s move abroad is starting a new school. New teachers, making friends and finding their way around can fill any child with dread. Easing their concerns and ensuring they set off on the right foot is essential.
Before they start, speak to their teachers about any specific worries and help them get to know your son or daughter’s particular interests or hobbies. They can then help your child mix with others with similar likes and dislikes and, if your child is feeling particularly anxious, the teacher can then introduce a favourite toy, game or subject to help them feel calm and relaxed.
On their first day, ask if your child can introduce themselves to their new classmates. Give them the opportunity to tell them all about them, their family, their favourite things and where they moved from. Their new friends natural curiosity will have them bombarding your child with questions and your home country and unique background in no time at all.
Moving overseas can leave you and your children feeling a little lonely and isolated. Take the initiative and seek out new friends, particularly those with children a similar age to your own. Knock on your neighbour’s door and introduce yourself, invite colleagues over for a bbq, embrace every opportunity to meet new people.
Encouraging your child to play with others in the safe, secure environment of your home will allow new friendships to blossom. Making friends will, in turn, help you and your children to lay down roots and feel at home in your new country.
While you may be looking to the exciting changes ahead, children will still crave routine and familiarity. After you move, try to keep certain habits and customs as they were to give your child some security and comfort.
If you always read a story before bed, watched a movie together on Friday or had a family dinner on Sunday, keep doing it. Eventually you will create new family traditions in your new home, but try to keep the important parts of your child’s schedule the same.
Keep In Touch
It is important that children understand that friends and family back home will remain an important part of their lives. This is an import one of our tips for moving abroad with children. While they are moving forward and making new friends, keeping in touch is a great way of easing the transition. Arrange regular voice or video calls with best friends, grandparents, cousins and anyone who formed an important part of their lives.
For older children, social media can be a great way of keeping in touch, although too much time looking at pictures and posts from friends can lead to homesickness and stop them engaging with their new social life abroad.
If You Go Back…
Although we have concentrated our tips on moving abroad with children on a move from the UK to a destination abroad, for many families, living abroad is an exciting, rewarding, yet temporary move. As work or personal circumstances change, you may eventually find yourself packing your bags and returning home. Like the initial move, this can also be a tricky time for children.
One of favourite tips for moving abroad with children is to help them document and celebrate their time abroad with a scrapbook and other mementos to take home. Accept that they may feel sad about leaving and allow time to reconnect with their home culture. This can be a confusing time as they may feel they do not fit in either country. ‘Third Culture’ children can feel isolated and disconnected, but reminders of the things they have done and friends they have made in both homes can help them feel grounded and celebrate the adventures they have been on.
If you have any more tips for moving abroad with children, you can share your experiences with others on online expat forums or why not write your own blog about your journey which could help others in the same situation.
The Telegraph – Top Tips for Emigrating With Children
Expat Child – Three Tips For Moving Abroad With Children
Expat Mums Blog – Moving Abroad With Children