We found out that we are relocating overseas on a cold December day. Although this was going to be our second posting, we still had the same feelings of excitement, fear, and anticipation that we had before our first posting.
However this time our kids were older, two of them were going to school, and had a very active social life.
How was I going to tell them that we are relocating overseas? How would they respond? Do we wait until the last moment? Would they accept the news? How do we deal with our third culture kids?
Moving with kids abroad is not an easy task. Even so, if you are well informed and thoroughly prepared you and your children can grow and learn from this exciting experience.
Why is moving with kids a challenge?
Home is were children feel comfortable and secure. It is where they have their family, school, and friends. This is where they picked up their language skills and cultural codes. Many of them are still in the process of learning how to socialise effectively, and of gaining a sense of control.
For kids moving abroad is like cutting the umbilical cord. In the middle of the learning process they will have to start over: Seek new friends, get used to a new home, neighbourhood, school, country, learn a new language (even in the UK!) and adjust to new cultural codes.
Moving with kids is hard on you as a parent; not only are you busy with all the errands, you are also going through a roller coaster of emotions; excitement, fear, sadness. All this take a toll on energy and attention which can cause to short temper and chaos in the house, and affect your ability to assist your kids.
Important things to remember when moving with kids
Children might rebel - This is their way of gaining some influence in a situation they can not control.
Your kid will have mixed emotions - One day your child may be thrilled and excited, then blue and depressed the next.
Reactions from children will vary depending on their developmental age - Moving with toddlers is not like moving with pre-teens or teenagers.
Kids vary in personality - This influence the time a child may take to adjust to the move. Some children are naturally outgoing and will be able to make friends immediately while for some other children it may take months.
Being aware of the difficulties your are facing when moving with kids, and following some tips can create a positive experience for you and your kids.
Moving with kids – Advice for children of all ages
- Tell your kids about the move as soon as possible - Explain them why you are relocating overseas, but don't think you have to provide all the details right away. Give them some time to digest the news, and to think about it.
Communicate with your kids all the time - Let your kids feel that they can ask you everything, answer all their questions and concerns with as many details as you can provide. Be honest and open, this will help your kids to feel confident.
Be positive about the relocation overseas - Tell them about the new experiences and opportunities they can encounter in the new country. Your kids can feel you – If you are optimistic and positive about the expatriate adventure, then your children are more likely to feel the same way.
Let your kids know they can help with the moving and relocating tasks - children should be involved in packing and unpacking their own room. You can ask them to prepare a special moving box and to include all those essentials they might need during the move. Upon arrival to the new country ask them to be responsible for arranging their new room.
Help your kids plan their goodbyes - Some would prefer having a party others might want to have a few friends over. Help them to exchange gifts, e-mails, phone numbers, address books etc'.
At the destination country explore the new place - Take them to see the new school, or kindergarten. Show them around the neighbourhood – find out where is the shopping centre, parks, etc.
Sharon is the founder of Expats Moving and Relocation Guide. After three international moves, with children, she has a bit to say about it. She describes herself as a Third Culture Kid and her mission is to help moms moving abroad.
Photo credit: Run for Cover