10 tips to help you move abroad with your kids
Help turn your relocation overseas with your children into a smooth move with these tips.
An out-of-town move can be stressful for children. If you’re embarking on a move abroad it can be even more daunting. Here are some ways to make your kids’ transition easier.
1. Keep them in the loop
As soon as you know there’s even a possibility of a relocation, include your children in the conversation. Don’t just spring it on them. This is particularly important if your children are aged from about 9 years upwards (the age when their friends are becoming more important than you). If there is any, however remote, possibility that you may move abroad let them know; just bring it up casually in every-day conversation so you aren’t just announcing, “Hey, good news – we’re moving to the other side of the world in a few months!”
Listen properly to their concerns and tell them to come to you with their fears, anxieties and questions. And never dismiss their worries as being trivial, because they are anything but that to your child.
2. Explain everything, assume nothing
Assume your children know nothing about what a move entails. Very young children will be confused about what they’re able to take and what they can’t. They don’t always know what is part of the house and what can’t come with them. For example, my daughter was upset that her bed couldn’t move with us because our furniture is provided for us in our new home.
Assure them that all their toys, clothes, furniture and belongings will be put into boxes and taken to the new house. Walk around your house with your child. Have him point to things and tell him, “Yes, your bed is going to the new house.” “No, that wall is going to stay here.”
3. Involve them in the home buying process
If possible, take your children along on your house hunt. Make clear at the onset that the final decision is up to the adults, but that their opinions will be considered. If you can’t take them along, keep them involved. Take pictures of the houses you’re considering and bring them back to show the kids.
4. Plan a nice goodbye
Before you move, throw a going-away party for your kids. Invite their friends and ask each guest to bring along a piece of advice for your child for his first day at his new school.
5. Make the transition fun
Plan to splurge a little bit on transitioning from one home to another. Spend a night in a hotel with an indoor pool. Go to fun, kid-friendly restaurants for meals. Set aside time to see a movie or go roller skating.
6. Know your child’s new school
School is the centre of your child’s universe. They’ll only be happy if they are happy in school.
As soon as you know where you’ll be living, contact the school and get information on how to register and what documents and paperwork are required. Specifically ask about transitioning between classes and what supplies your child will need. As soon as possible, meet personally with the guidance counsellor, principal and your child’s teachers and take a tour of the building with your child, so he can familiarise himself with his new surroundings.
7. Reward them
Find something new, good and different about the new house or town and play it up. Look for a house with a play room. Buy a trampoline for the new, bigger back yard. Sign the kids up for a class somewhere fun. Give this new place something the old one didn’t have.
8. Add some extras
Before you unpack the first box, sign your children up for scouts, sports, clubs and other activities. These smaller groups may be a welcome group of new friends for them. They’ll feel more a part of their new home once they’re involved in activities.
9. Make their rooms a priority
Before you start fixing up the new house, do your kids a favour and let them redecorate their rooms first. Let them pick out a paint colour and a new bedspread. Having a place they feel comfortable and can call their own will work wonders for their settling in.
Once you arrive in the new place, start exploring. What does your new location have that you’ve never experienced? Start reaping the benefits of your new environment right away. Your kids will feel like they’re on a vacation.
Expatability Chat Podcast
Find more tips and advice here in my podcast. Supporting expat parents and partners to navigate their move and life overseas, with Carole Hallett Mobbs: Expat Life Mentor and Consultant, founder of ExpatChild.com and Expatability