A Guide to Moving Abroad with Children
If you’re making an international move, your children hopefully made the list of the top ten things you’d like to bring with you. While you may be eager to get a move on and start the next step, your children may be anxious and scared about what is potentially the biggest change in their lives so far.
If you’re noticing any kind of unease or anxiety in your children, you might want to address it, while also being unsure of the best way to do so. If so, this is the article for you, where we’ll give you advice and suggestions on how to tackle this subject with grace and poise.
This topic is best handled when broken down into four subsections:
- Initially telling your children about the move
- Helping them handle the fear of the unknown
- Getting them excited for the transition
- Dealing with any problems that arise after the move
Telling your children
Depending on how old your child is, the longer you refrain from telling them about your move, the more the likelihood of them catching on to a conversation and piecing together the situation increases.
Therefore, you should tell them as soon as you can. Since you’re all making the move together, it’s only fair that they have as much time to prepare as you do.
It might not feel like it, but they have their own lives and relationships which are just as important to them as yours are to you. Depriving them of the time they need to come to terms with the move is only going to make it harder on both of you.
On the other hand, don’t tell them at an inappropriate time. When they’re just walking in the door and tired from a day of school, dropping a life-changing bombshell on them is not the best idea. Pick a relaxed time that gives them the space they need to process such a change.
On a lighter note, here are some happy kids answering some brain-busting questions about moving:
Fear of the unknown
One of the most innate fears a human being can have is the fear of the unknown. For example, fear of the dark is really fear of whatever’s lurking in the shadows. Children are especially averse to change – as they ideally need a stable environment throughout their developing years.
To counteract this, make sure your child has a complete grasp of where you’re going, and any big changes that may come with the move. Show them pictures of your new neighbourhood, give some fun examples of any cultural changes, and (if applicable) learn the language together. If you’re moving from the US to the UK, you could start weaning your kids off Jolly Ranchers and onto scones
If you’re moving country, it’s possible you have a few trips planned before the move to suss out the neighbourhoods, schools, or real estate. If so, do your best to take your kids along with you (even if it means they miss a day or two of school). They’ll be exposed to the new environment in a controlled setting, and they’ll be able to ask questions without feeling overwhelmed.
The less you can make the trip feel like a precipitous dive into the unknown, and more like an informed long-term vacation, the better the experience will be for you and your child.
Making the move itself
As we’re sure you know, moving is a very busy and complicated time. It would be easy to put some of your child’s desires on the backburner to help yourself focus on the big issues (visas, jobs, schooling, etc.) However, this kind of neglect isn’t always the best idea.
In the weeks leading up to the move, it’s very important to let your children feel as though they still deserve focus and attention. Make sure you keep up any routines that you’ve established (bedtime stories, weekly trips to the park) in order to make sure your child doesn’t build up any resentment towards this change.
It also helps to give your child some aspect of control over the move, or at the very least, the illusion of control. Ask for their input on decorating your new home, what color they’d like their new room to be painted, or any other small choices that help them feel like they’re contributing.
You could also let them figure out how they want to say goodbye to people or places that are important to them. Allow them to propose their ultimate playdate ideas or their final trips to their favourite park or mall. This gives them the impression that they’re in charge of some part of their life, rather than being a victim to their parents’ indecipherable whims.
Behavioural problems after the move
So once you’ve settled in to your new home, the essentials are unpacked, and your new life starts to begin, how do you start to address any problems that you start to see your child manifesting? These problems could include separation anxiety, developmental regression, or general sadness/lack of energy.
As difficult as it may be, for the first few months, your child may just have to get through it themselves. Adapting to any big change will be difficult, and sometimes the only way for your child to address it will be to power through. They’ll have a rough couple of months, and the most you’ll be able to do is be there for them.
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If the issues persist, however, and start to affect their academic performance, they may need additional help. This help can include: psychiatry, mentorship, or pediatric therapy.
There’s always help you can offer on your end. Make sure that home life is as settled as possible and stick to similar routines to those that you had before the move. Perhaps even get a new pet to help distract your child. Spoiling your child is usually frowned upon, but if there was ever a time for it, it’s now.
You could also plan to visit your old home. A few months after settling down, it could be a fun trip to return to whence you came, and allow your child to visit old friends and locations.
The wrap up
The hard truth about this is – even if you follow the advice in this article perfectly – there will always be some tears. It’s easy to forget that – unless you move frequently – your child’s whole developmental life has taken place within the confines of a single relatively small area. No matter how it’s framed, uprooting them will always be a jarring experience. All you can do is try to foster as smooth a transition as possible.