How to prepare your child for an overseas move
Moving overseas: The one decision your kids won’t have a choice about.
Discuss why you are moving, why you considered this the best choice for your family at this time. Remember what I said at the beginning of this article? “Unlike our kids, we’re moving by choice (this is one of the most important points I want you to keep in mind as you continue).” Be clear that the decision to move is yours alone to make as parents and providers and a time will come when they will be able to decide for themselves where they choose to live. Kids need to understand their parents make decisions based on what they truly believe is best for the family. They also need to be clear that as you are responsible for your family you therefore have the authority to decide this for all involved.
A sense of safety and security
You’d be surprised to find that many kids, even if they demonstrate anger at your decision, will ultimately find comfort in your decisiveness. A parent that shows they are secure in their decision actually can impart a sense of safety and security to the child, although the child may not actually be able to identify this as one of the things that helped them to feel more secure at the time. (Most of us don’t realize this. We just detest you for a while. Expat kids who are reading this will probably not agree. Most of us realize this when we’re older.)
Discuss and share
If at all possible, can you share a comparable point in your life so your kids can see you do understand how they might be feeling? Even if you didn’t move a lot when you were young share about a time when your parents made a decision you didn’t agree with (or didn’t understand, or caused you sadness, or made your feel insecure) and then tell them how you ultimately came to accept the situation, manage or deal with it, use it to your advantage, or turn it into a positive, etc.
Example: I moved my child back to Bolivia when he was four years old. He had a hard time adjusting to his new kindergarten. One day I told him “You know I was exactly your age when my family moved to Ecuador. I was the new kid at school. I didn’t speak Spanish or understand anyone. I was the only blonde kid. The other kids didn’t know English so even if they wanted to play with me they didn’t invite me to. I felt very lonely and afraid and shy and I spent most of the day by myself. Isn’t that what you are feeling?” Eyes big as saucers: “Yes mommy! Eeezackly!” “Well, you know because I have been in the same situation and I understand how you are feeling, would you let me know when you feel this way so we can talk about it?”
The relief in my child’s face was plainly visible. From that day forward we made it a ritual to talk every day after school as we walked home (and I chose to walk rather than pick him up by car because this gave us this time). His thoughts and fears flowed like a river. We discussed and shared and he opened up completely. He was so relieved to know I actually understood him. The change was apparent almost immediately. Within two weeks he was making friends, actively trying to learn the language, and participating in classroom activities with a sense of pride.
You may not have gone through the exact same experience as your child, but if you think back, there are sure to be times when you resisted a decision your parents made only to find things went well. Share this. Your biggest success in smoothing out this transition is in ensuring your children trust you. If they trust you make decisions you feel will be good for them, much of the fear and apprehension (and resistance) will dissipate.
So can you guarantee things will go well? No. But you can make an attempt and all most kids need is to see their parents are making an effort for them.
One thing you can do is give them some choices and we will look at these in the next article.
Republished with kind permission from Charis Barks via An expat kid tells you 20 things you MUST DO if you are relocating with children.