Moving to another country, a new culture, language and/or a climate is a daunting, life-changing prospect for all of us. Even if you are used to moving around the world, this will still present some challenges. There will be new, foreign customs, foods, traditions… even things such as architecture and street plan can make us feel like in some other world. However, for us, adults, it is a comprehensible affair. We get used to it. Maybe we enjoy it as well. After all, we chose to move. Nobody just picked us up from our life in the country we currently reside and moved us to this new environment. But, for your children, when you move, this is exactly what happens. They are not necessarily able to understand that you need to move for a job, or a financial situation, or for some other, private reason. For them, their world and all they have known is getting left behind with no apparent rime or reason. So, how should you be preparing your children for moving abroad in order to avoid or minimize these effects? Here are some tips.
How old is the child?
Age matters. While child psychology is a complex field and there are many differences in development for each age, for purposes of this post let us split children into two distinct categories. They are either:
- Pre-teens. Surprisingly to some, moving with younger children is easier, even if they are not used to it. For them, home is mostly where people they most care about are, and at that age that mainly (but not solely) means the parents.
- Teens. In preparing your children for moving abroad teenagers will prove to be more difficult. This is understandable. Their identity is being formed in large part by their environment and they feel that their sense of self is deeply connected to their home (town, neighborhood, people that are there or culture that presides there etc.)
This doesn’t mean that having teenagers will make a move impossible. You just have to have clear communication with them.
Take into consideration how to adjust to a new climate. While it might seem simple to change wardrobe habits, for a more formed teenage personality, change in clothes might be a more difficult step than expected (as it also means a change in style which impedes self-expression)
They don’t have much of a choice, so make sure they trust in yours.
As a parent you do, and always have to, know what’s best for you and the family as a whole. Children are too young to take or even comprehend what goes into making these life-changing decisions. This means that your choice to move from coast to coast, for example, can seem sudden and completely unnecessary to them, and yet they can’t really influence your decision.
Here are some tips to make this easier for them:
- Be decisive – Even when they don’t like the decision, children can pick up on insecurities. They should know that you are absolutely sure that this is the right thing to do.
- Be approachable – The first point doesn’t negate the second one. In preparing your children for moving abroad you have to be approachable. Make sure they can ask questions and answer them as best as you can. However, don’t let it seem that your decision is shaky.
- Give them a choice where possible – For this, look what we are proposing next…
Get them to help in preparing your children for moving abroad – from your children!
Having your kids help you in making a move will not only be a helpful pair of hands or a word of thought but will (far more importantly) make them feel like part of the process. Harness this to best of your ability.
Get them to help you with research. Let them investigate the country they are about to move in. In younger children especially this can give a sense of adventure (a sense you should use to your advantage).
Need help packing? Involve them too. It is especially important that they have a say in what goes and what stays. Having that important toy for the road will make the whole process go a lot smoother as they will feel more like home in their new location.
To compound this, make sure that most of their dear elements get into a new room for them if possible. Familiarity will go a long way into helping them adjust.
Who knows, they might even be ready to let go of more things than you know, helping with cutting your moving expenses!
School and friends – how to deal with all new?
Being a new person in school, almost without exception, sucks. No way around it, really, but you can do a lot to help it go smoother.
Talk to them about their new challenges. As before, this part of preparing your children for moving abroad also involves a lot of communication.
Also, do your research on the school they are about to attend, and involve them if possible. Maybe you can also create contact with some kids who are already there, so your children can already know some when they arrive?
Don’t forget home – stay in touch
And finally, don’t make them forget where they came from. Even if they are leaving, functionality, forever, make sure that some contact remains. For children, losing contact with all their friends can come as the hardest part, so help them stay in touch.
When you arrive, keep some routine. It is healthy for the mind to have some familiarity. Try to sleep at the same time or dine as usual. This will go a long way with making sure that children perceive everything as just everyday business.
We wish you a happy relocation!