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Moving Abroad with Children

Katie Cullen
Written by Katie Cullen
7th August 2017

There are many parents that would scoff at the idea of moving their children abroad – There are some that would break into hysterical, nervous laughter at the very thought of it. Sometimes, these things just have to be done. There are circumstances that can occur that will mean you have to move abroad. It could be a fantastic work opportunity, it could be a vital work commitment or it could simply be that it’s your dream to move to another country and, why should have to put that on the backburner just because you have procreated? There’s no reason your kids can’t have a wonderful life in another country, right? Children are adaptable, resilient little loves and as long as they are kept in the loop and nurtured through the process, this moving abroad malarkey can go off without a hitch.

There is no ‘One Size Fits All’ solution to the kid conundrum. Children are individuals and each child will deal with situations differently. As a parent or guardian, you know your child, you know their character, their quirks and foibles so as you peruse this guide, you will be able to glean which of the tips will apply to your child and what methods will work on them.

This article will cover the following points

Control Research Language School Keeping in Touch Positivity Preparation Emotional Rollercoaster Listen What the Kids Say Expat Child Syndrome Moving Day Have Faith

Control

Really, this rule is not specific to children moving internationally. The same applies to children moving home in general… or going through any sort of unavoidable change. Your kids have no say in this decision. Often, by the time you tell your children about the move, the decision is already made and is set in stone. Kids are slaves to their routine, they are subconsciously regimental so, disturbing their sense of equilibrium is enough to rattle them to the point of hysteria. 

Give them back as much control as is humanly possible. The choice to move abroad was not theirs so, it is a good idea now to involve them in other decisions surrounding the move. Perhaps choosing a house or area to live in and it’s definitely worth letting them have some say in what you will take with you and what is to be left behind. Let them get actively involved in the organising and the packing. You still have lots of big decisions to make. Involve the children in this. Communicate and talk so they feel like they are part of this process and not just being dragged along for the ride. 

Research

A simple but effective way to keep your halflings involved and somewhat enthused about the pending relocation is to enlist their help with the research project. There will be tons of research to be done so make a fun task out of it, do it together. Be sure to put a positive spin on all that you find.

TIP – Involve your kids’ friends in the research project. The likelihood is that the friends will be impressed by what they find. Moving to a new country is a big deal and as the friends are not the ones going, for them it’s just a novelty. The excitement they convey at the novelty may have a positive impact on your child.

Language

One of the biggest contributing factors in the struggle of moving to another country is the language barrier. If you are moving to a country where English isn’t widely spoken then this will present significant challenges for you and your children. It has been said that moving to a foreign speaking country is the best way to learn a language as you will be completely immersed in the culture, surrounded by locals and you’ll be exposed to the language and hundreds of conversations every day. The odds are, your child will pick up the language very quickly once you move but that’s not going to help them in the early days of your move. Not just that, but the anticipation of moving to a place where they’re not going to understand anyone can be intimidating for children. A move abroad takes a good while to execute. You should use this time to get lessons in the language. A language tutor working with your child or all the family working together to learn the language will make a huge difference. 

School

Ask for your child’s current school for their assistance in aiding the transition. If the school teacher and the children in the class can offer your child an appropriate farewell, it might help. Your child will be the centre of attention, the guest of honour and the star pupil in his/her final weeks at the school. You can ask the teacher to liaise with other parents in making pen pal arrangements or to make a group chat or exchange email addresses. Perhaps the class as a whole can have some sort of ongoing contact and arrange to have a class skype chat with your child a week or two after the move. This is a really nice touch and seeing the faces of classmates may be a welcome dose of warmth and familiarity in your child’s first week in the new country. 

Keeping in Touch

It won’t just be school friends your child will want to maintain contact with. There will undoubtedly be one or two ‘best friends’ that your child is really going to miss terribly. Don’t make the ‘staying in touch’ the responsibility of your children. Don’t forget, moving away was not their choice, leaving their friends behind was not their choice. It should be your responsibility to facilitate the long-distance relationship between your child and their besties back home. Speak to the parents and make sure you have each other's contact details. Agree that you will both work to ensure the friendship is carried on. Arrange dates and times for the next skype chat. Install instant messaging apps on their tablets or phones. Let the kids know that you are doing this so that they can be assured that staying in touch will be easy. 

Positivity

This needs to be a buzzword for you in the months leading up to your big move. Although our kids are bundles of joy and excitement, they are all doom and gloom when things aren’t quite as they hope or expect. When you are enforcing such a huge change on them, they will be shaken by the impending disruption. Not knowing what to expect will be a real source of anxiety and worry for your child. Putting a positive spin on everything is vital. Talking about all you will do in your new home, highlighting everything that will be great should help to keep the kid’s spirits up.

Moving abroad is stressful. You will be swamped with the paperwork, the planning and the packing so naturally, you won’t make it through the entire process without the odd wobble. You will need to work hard to ensure that the kids are not too exposed to these wobbles, stress and negativity. It won’t do you any favours to have the kids associating any further negative feelings to the move.

Create excitement wherever possible. This is a new and thrilling adventure. As a family, you are embarking on something that few people you know have done. It is a wonderful opportunity. If it’s going to be sunny or beautiful in your new habitat then use this to your advantage and point out everything that you’ve got to look forward to. 

Preparation

It is easy for us to advise you to prepare your child for every eventuality but it’s not so easy for you to do. More often than not, the anticipation of an event causes more anxiety than the actual event. If kids know what to expect and what might or could happen, it will put them at ease just a little bit. Try to provide them with as much information as possible about the house and the area you will live in, the school they will go to, what the food will be like, what kinds of things you will do on the weekends and what will happen during the moving process… The packing, the sorting and the actual trip there. 

Emotional Rollercoaster

To say that moving abroad is an emotional time is an understatement. No doubt you have experienced waves of differing emotions through the process, imagine how your little one is getting on with such turmoil? What confusion it must cause them. They don’t have the life experience and the maturity to work through the emotions so it’s up to us as parents to lay the emotional groundwork.

Constant reassurance is key. The kids need to know that some things won’t change no matter what. Such as the family dynamic, their relationship with you and the love you have for them. Let them spend quality time with the friends and family members they will soon be leaving behind so that they can get their own closure.

Spend quality time with your child or children in the run up to the move. It is a very busy time but it is vital that you make time for them. It will be good for you too. Sometimes, during the chaos of a house move, the calming normality you will feel when you just stop, will do you a world of good. 

Listen

Communication is vital in supporting a child through a transition and change of this magnitude. Keep an ongoing dialogue about the move with your child, encourage the kiddo to talk and most importantly, when they do talk… LISTEN. Let them rant, rave, cry, vent. Let them express all their fears and worries and let them know that they are being heard. You can address all of those worries and concerns when they are done telling you and even if they repeat the same worries over and over, you can just keep offering the same reassurances over and over. It’s all part of the process.

Moving abroad will affect your child. It would be misleading for us to write otherwise but, that doesn’t mean that the effect will have negative implications or that it will do any damage. For many, time living in another country has been a valuable experience. It has given them confidence and exposed them to a new culture, perhaps a new language. This can bring out a real open mindedness in a child. 

What the Kids Say

Here at Compare My Move, we like to give the best possible moving advice and for this, we thought who better to offer advice than the kids who have been through it. Below are just a couple of accounts of children who have lived in a foreign country.

Connor – Age 13. Connor moved to Portugal when he was 5 years old.

‘I remember my Mum and Dad showing me pictures of the new house and that we had a pool so I was really excited. I don’t really remember missing anyone because I was so excited. I remember taking the ferry over and I loved it’.

Caitlin – Age 13. Caitlin has lived all over the world because of her parent’s work commitments.

‘I found it really hard moving and it was upsetting leaving friends behind that I loved. I think I can make friends more easily as that’s what I have been used to but even now I find it difficult. But I loved seeing new places and travelling the world’.

Lauren – Age 13. Lauren moved to Cyprus when she was 5 years old.

‘I liked the adventure, making new friends and a new change, but I found it hard leaving behind friends. It’s helped me now I’m older by being more confident with each step I take in life and I still keep in contact with my old friends’

Expat Child Syndrome

These are three scary words for parents looking to relocate with their child. Expat Child Syndrome is the stress and anxiety children can experience when moving to another country. EPC can cause certain behaviours in a child from seclusion, withdrawal and even uncooperative or disruptive behaviour. The best way to deal with this if you see these signs in your child is to be understanding of their plight. When you think about it, it really is understandable. Keep that communication and reassurance going and, in all likelihood, they will settle in due course. 

Moving Day

On the day of the move, when you are travelling to your new home country, the positivity and excitement have to have reached the crescendo. Ensure that the kids have items of comfort and familiarity with them and keep the fun going. 

Have Faith

When it comes down to it, there is no need to torture yourself with worry or guilt. You want to give your child the best life possible and although the decision to move abroad might have been a tough one to make, ultimately, you would have made it because it was the best for everyone. Children really are incredible. They are stronger than their cute little faces and feeble frames let on. Have faith in your child’s spirit and strength of character. They may have a bit of a wobble during the course of the move but they will be OK.

Good Luck in Your New Home Abroad – And don’t forget to Compare International Removal Companies

Last updated on Monday 13th November 2017