You’ve made up your mind, the contracts are signed and excitement is rife as you prepare to leave for your new “home of choice”. Current trends show clearly that the numbers of families moving abroad are increasing, and it is becoming something many families strive to do at some point in their lives.
Moving abroad stirs up a variety of feelings in both parents and children and emotions are often on the proverbial roller coaster before you even start packing. With a bit of careful planning, however, moving abroad can be one of the most worthwhile experiences your child will ever have.
Here are some helpful hints to make your international transition a smooth and happy one.
Start talking about the idea of moving to another country as early as possible. Talk a lot about the new country and give lots of visual input by comparing things at home with things abroad. Look for pictures that compare housing, animals, people, food, weather or sports. Let children start a little scrap book and build up a visual impression of their new home.
If there is a new language to be learned, make that a fun exercise. Draw up little theme lists with pictures and words of everyday things and learn those together. Food and rooms in a house are always a good place to start. Listen to the new country’s national anthem and try to sing along – even just la-la-la-ing along to the melody can be fun. Laugh a lot.
Remember that children will be thinking different things to you – you will be concerned about getting daily life organised, children will be wondering about losing friends and making new ones. Be sensitive and talk about how they can keep in touch with special people and about how they can meet new ones.
Stay positive and try not to voice your concerns about potential schooling or safety. And when children do get to school, show empathy and understanding until they settle down – remember too that most children need about 4-6 months to really settle and get back to their former performance level at school – where a new language has to be learned, it could take up to a year. Sell this “temporary drop” in performance as acceptable and focus on the added value of a new language and new experiences.
Make sure that children take their personal, special belongings along. There really is nothing quite as comforting as curling up under your own duvet with your very special, very familiar teddy bear when you arrive in a new country.
Try to retain as much normality as possible on arrival in your destination. Retain rules that you had back home and stick to former rituals as much as possible.
Your children will be looking for new friends. Moving abroad with children is like having a people magnet in your bag. Parents with children meet other people with children. Make these connections at schools, kindergartens and local clubs. Get children involved and busy so that they quickly feel part of their new home. Consider having a little kick-off party with some school friends shortly after arrival.
Bear in mind that you’ll probably be coming back some day so start a new memory book when you arrive – let your children collect and draw things to bring back when they leave. Children often find it difficult to go back home after they’ve been abroad and it is important to let them know that the relocation will be a temporary thing.
*Marinda Seisenberger is author of Expat the Easy Way (£11.99) which is published by Panoma Press. It is available to order from Amazon.