Dealing with homesickness, culture shock, missing loved ones and learning a new language are just a few of the many hurdles to overcome when moving overseas. However, when you're moving with children, you will have to ensure that they are making the transition happily and healthily as well.
While kids often have an easier time adjusting to change than adults, it may still take some time for your offspring to settle into your new life abroad. Read on for some helpful tips on how to move abroad with children while helping them cope with the anxiety and changes.
Talk to your children about moving overseas
The first thing to do when you decide to move is to talk to your kids about moving abroad. If you are thinking of keeping it a secret or don't feel that their involvement is important, you're highly mistaken. It's natural to feel hesitant and get worried as to how your kids will react to the news but having a discussion will make it easy for them to accept the truth. Give them enough time to deal with the situation so they can say goodbye to their friends, especially if they are teenagers. Make sure that your children are ready to move to another country and know what their expectations are.
Be supportive and hear the kids out
When you break the news to your kids, hear them out and try to understand their response. Instead of denying their feelings, tell them that you're there for them and that together you can make things better. If they have a fear or doubt about the move, let them express their concern and then help them tackle those issues. Wait for them to prepare for the international move and extend your support so they don't find the changes too overwhelming.
Don't make promises that you can't keep
When planning to move to a new country with your children, you may be tempted to say a lot of things to make them believe that the relocation is good for them. However, you will have to keep in mind that breaking any promise will only upset them. So be honest and refrain from making false promises. Make sure that they don't form unrealistic expectations about the move. Tell them all the pros and cons of moving abroad and let them know that you will help them deal with the adversities as well.
Involve your kids in the decisions
Making an international move with kids is never easy because of their unpredictable reactions. It's important for your children to be excited about the move and for this, you need to make them a part of the process. Involve them in your decisions as to what belongings they want to move to the other country. Never discard their stuff without their consent or at least let them know that you can't move everything to the new house. Even when you are packing everything up or exploring housing options, their involvement will keep them energized and emotionally invested in the move.
Tell them about the new country
When helping your kids deal with moving to another country, let them know about the new place. The best way to get the kids excited about the move is to tell them about all the new things that they are going to enjoy. Show them pictures of where they are going to live, the tourist attractions, and what the city looks like. Also, educate them about the customs, cultures, languages, weathers, and cuisines of the country so they have an idea about what their new life will be like.
Read books, find information on the internet, and read testimonials from other expat families to get a taste of what life is like for Americans in your new country. You can even use the information to create a manual for your child to bring to your destination to help ease the transition process. Keep the lines of communication open and let your child know to come to you with any questions they may have about the process and the new culture in which they will soon be immersed.
Learn the foreign language together
One of the most important things to become familiar with during an overseas move is your new country's native tongue. Even if you are moving to the U.K. or Australia, there will be many differences in expressions, figures of speech, and pronunciation. You should begin familiarizing your child with the language long before you actually arrive in your new home.
There are many useful books and tools on the market to learn a foreign language, some geared specifically to children. Spend a little time each day during the several months leading up to the move practicing speaking and reading the language so that your child will begin to feel comfortable with it. This way, once you arrive, he or she will be able to pick it up and become fluent much easier and more quickly.
Be positive about the move
Maintaining a positive attitude can work wonders on your child's perception of the move. Be sure to continually express all the desirable aspects of your relocation and the attributes of your new home country. The more you speak about the move like an exciting adventure, the better your children will view the experience. However, it's normal for your child to go through periods of sadness or rebellion.
Try to remain patient and understanding of their unpleasant behavior and let your child know that you empathize with them. You may want to remind your child that you are feeling many of the same things â€“ such as home sickness or culture shock. However, remember to end the dialogue on an upbeat note to keep your child feeling positive about the move.
Find the best schools
When you move abroad with children, giving them optimum education becomes imperative. Be sure to spend significant time researching the schools in your new area so that you can be sure your child will have access to excellent facilities, instructors and curriculums. There are many things that differ about educational systems around the world, and you should find out as much as you can so that your child can be prepared.
For example, in some countries, such as Japan, Australia and South Korea, students attend school year-round with a two-week break between each term. In France, children attend school for a half-day on Saturdays, and are off on Wednesday and Sunday. Learning about the differences your child will experience at their new schools will allow them to adjust more quickly once classes begin.
Furthermore, when you're finding schools abroad, keep in mind the factors like location, curriculum, and fees. Whether it's a local or international school, browse through the websites, read expat blogs and forums to pick a good school for your kid. Before finalizing, contact the school and ask them important questions about their curriculum and affiliations. Most importantly, let your kids know about the new school.
Keep in contact with family and friends
After you move overseas with children, they may long for the comfort of their family and old friends back home. Keep photos of loved ones around the house or create a photo album or scrapbook with pictures and mementos from your old life. Help your child keep in touch with friends and relatives by making regular phone calls, setting up a social media or email account, or even sending handwritten letters and postcards.
Keeping a close relationship with the people your child misses back home will ease the transition process and surely bring him or her great comfort. If possible, you should also plan a visit back home that your child can look forward to. If you will only be living abroad for a short time, remind your child that he or she will be reunited with their loved ones before long.
Help them make new friends
One of the most difficult things for a child to do when moving to a new country is making new friends. If your child is extroverted, they will probably begin forming new friendships in no time. However, if he or she is a bit more introverted, you may have to help push the process along. Try to ease your child's concerns or intimidation about being different, if they have any. Be proactive and invite your new neighbors' children over to play or initiate a conversation with the other parents at school to set up a playdate.
Moving overseas with a toddler
Moving overseas with a toddler is relatively easy as they don't have any emotional issues or homesickness. However, you still have to make sure that you don't change much for them so that they adjust to the situation easily. Try to keep their schedule unchanged â€“ feed them and put them to bed at their usual time. Also, when you are moving, keep their favorite toy or pacifier with them and make sure that they are healthy and happy throughout the move. You may also want to check for good pediatricians when moving to another country.
Moving overseas with teenagers
If you are making an international move with teenagers be prepared to deal with their anger and opposition. Teenagers won't likely see any good in moving to a new country, especially if they are moving abroad for the first time. Since at this age kids have a strong connection with friends, ask your kids to invite them over and do the packing together. Give them space as they will want to spend more time together before leaving.
If you are moving abroad to a big city with good career prospects, you may let your teenage kid know about the opportunities they will have in their new school. This will give them a reason to look forward to a new beginning of their life.