Moving abroad with your family can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You gain a valuable experience of embracing another culture, upgrading your career, finding new friends, and giving your children the chance to become citizens of the world. While the positives are many, a change of this proportion can also be a real challenge for the whole family. Here we offer tried and true ideas that can help your child adjust to life abroad.
Tips Before the Move
No guide or rulebook can tell you precisely what to do and what not to do — every circumstance and family is different. Your child’s age will play a big part in how you can communicate and prepare for life abroad.
Regardless of age, involve your child in the relocation process as much as you can. Children don’t like being in the dark when it comes to big, life-changing decisions, much like adults. Being an active participant in the process will make them feel important and help them (and you) through the transition. You can do this in the following ways:
- Don’t wait till the last minute to tell them about the transition. Pick a time where you can share the news in peace and quiet and be prepared to answer any questions they may have.
- Help them get better acquainted with the country you are moving to through learning about the culture, language, customs, etc.
- Allow your children to make some of the decisions. Your toddler, for example, can choose some of the toys or clothing pieces they will bring along. An older child may have a say in bigger decisions.
- Talk about leaving in an exciting way, but be careful not to overdo it with promises or to set the expectations too high.
Deciding on Schooling
If you have school-age children, one of the major decisions you and your partner will have to agree on is your child’s education in your new location. Oftentimes, you have to start the process of researching the education system and figure out your options before the actual move. This choice carries such weight because school plays a big role in how your child will adapt to the new environment. Not only does it provide an educational foundation, but the school can also become an extra support system to rely on and thrive in.
Common questions regarding schooling revolve around if you want your child to experience a local school or attend an international school, for example (if that is an option). Other points to consider are what impact language barriers will (or won’t) have and what grade your child will go into in the new country. Certain countries also offer the option of homeschooling, so it won’t hurt to examine all the possibilities well before you decide which school your youngster will attend.
Helping Your Child Adjust Once Abroad
We often think of children as easily adaptable, and in many aspects, this is correct. However, with a significant change such as moving your whole life abroad, your children might need a bit of extra help to settle in. Know that it takes time to feel at home in a new place and that it is normal to have ups and downs.
New Home, Sweet Home
Once you’ve moved, you’ll want to make the home abroad feel like home. You might have decided to get a whole new set of furniture for your new home or settled on an already arranged and furnished space. Or maybe you are planning to move a portion of the furnishings from your homeland. Whichever option you decide on, our advice is to bring along a few familiar pieces of furniture or small items to help make your new home feel familiar.
However, your child may resent the choice of the new space and environment, no matter how hard you try to make the experience pleasant. In those moments, it’s essential to acknowledge their feelings while also reminding them of the good sides of their new life — the places they’ll see, the people they’ll meet, etc.
Maintain Contact with Family and Friends
When trying to help your child adjust to life abroad, the initial months are typically the most difficult. Your youngster will likely experience homesickness at this time. That’s why it is critical to secure contact with family and friends back home. Luckily, social media has made staying in touch with people all over the world easier than ever. Encourage your child to communicate with family and friends back home by sending messages and photographs. Dedicate a specific day/time of the week for video calls, for example, as this can aid with loneliness at first and help them to adjust to the new lifestyle.
Meet New People
While keeping in touch with family and friends is important, don’t let it prevent your child from making new connections. School is essential, but children should also cultivate friendships outside of class. Encourage them to join art clubs or sports teams or to participate in extracurricular activities. Setting up playdates or making friends with neighbors who have kids is also a great way to help your child integrate into the new community.
Do not hide your happiness and enthusiasm! Every beginning is frightening but exciting and interesting at the same time. Whether you like it or not, children pick up your emotions, and what you project will reflect on them, either positively or negatively.
Even if you are skeptical and insecure about the whole decision, give yourself a chance and, most importantly — time. Try to look at things from the bright side and use as much time as possible to talk and play with your little one. Remember — patience and lots of love are your best bet if you want to help your child adjust to life abroad!
Isabel Hoffman has been working with Easy Move KW as a consultant for the past four years. She is well versed in providing helpful tips and strategies related to the moving process. She enjoys spending time with her twin girls and cooking for her family in her free time.