Moving can be a difficult challenge in and of itself. Add children and a move between countries and you have an apparently insurmountable task. But that doesn’t mean it’s completely impossible to move abroad when you have kids. It’s entirely possible to do so, but it does involve planning ahead of time.
It’s no secret that instability isn’t good for a kid’s mental health and self-esteem, and moving too often can lead to a greater emotional struggle for your kids when they’re older. Providing stability and emphasizing what won’t change in the move can help reassure your kids that this move won’t ruin their lives, and allow them to become more comfortable with the idea of relocation. Here are tips for moving abroad when you have a child.
Time your move for the school year
One of the worst ways to move a child is by yanking them out of school in the middle of the school year, dropping them in another school in the middle of its school year, and walking away. Although it’s not always possible to time your move perfectly to accommodate a child’s school schedule, researching the schedule the country you’re adopting may follow can help minimize headaches and improve the transition period.
The name of the game is minimizing change. If you can’t arrange the schedules so your child moves during summer breaks or in between school years, look for schools with an American curriculum and schedule so that you can provide some more continuity. If you can take advantage of summer break, use the gap to finalize any steps to get your kids enrolled before the next school year begins.
By allowing your child to begin at a new school when the school year starts, you minimize their chances of feeling ostracized and singled out as a new incoming student.
Educate them on what’s coming
For many kids, the culture shock of moving abroad can be massive. Depending on what country you’re moving from and moving to, you can expect your kids to be faced with a new language, a new lifestyle, new concepts and new cultures. Even a transition from the United States to the United Kingdom can be a major culture shock for your kids. Helping them prepare for the transition ahead of time can ease the impact and increase your child’s chances of successfully integrating into a new community.
Well before you move, you should start preparing your child for some of the changes that will be coming simply because expatriation is difficult. Talk about the practices and habits of people in the country you will be moving to. As you’re going through your day, bring up aspects that will change and aspects that might stay the same when you move. For example, if you’re going grocery shopping in a supermarket, you can explain to your child that in the country you will be moving to, people buy smaller quantities of groceries daily or every other day rather than stock up for a week or two.
Recreate familiar spaces for them
No matter what you do, the transition is going to be difficult for your kids. You can ease the struggle of moving by trying to provide familiar comforts to your child in your new home. Make an effort to recreate familiar spaces that feel reassuring to your child. For example, try to set up their bedroom as similarly as possible to their bedroom in their old home.
Bring familiar and well-loved items, and show your child that they’ll have a place in the new home as well. If your child had a playgroup back home, look for a new one in your new home and begin bringing them to it. If you made a habit of bringing your child to the library or the park in your old country, look for similar spots in your new location to bring your kid. They’ll appreciate the familiarity and the similarities to home. Moving abroad with a child can be an immense challenge, and even if you do everything right, you can’t predict how your child will respond to the move. However, there are steps you can take to ease the transition and help your child adjust to their new home and life.
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