Your dreams of living abroad may have included strolls down cobblestone paths, exciting and exotic dishes at local restaurants, and the joys of immersing yourself in a new culture. Now that it’s actually time to pack up and relocate, however, it’s essential to consider how your children will adapt to their new home.
Although you may not have a long time to prepare for your job transfer, giving your children as much advanced warning as possible will ease the transition to a strange new country.
Break the News As Soon As Possible
You may be tempted to hold back after deciding to move abroad, waiting to tell your children so as to not upset them. According to Expat Mums, however, that approach is short-sighted.
Children need time to think about new ideas and adjust to the concept of living somewhere else. Explain your rationale for moving abroad, providing age-appropriate details. Then, ask your child how they feel about moving to a new country.
Continue to check in every few days, answering questions and addressing new fears. Framing the move as a positive experience — even if you’re a bit nervous yourself — increases the likelihood that your child will feel excited or optimistic about moving.
Encourage Sentimental Items
Perhaps you’re selling your home and downsizing to a smaller flat in Sydney, limiting the amount that you can take with you. Much of what you currently own must be sold, given away, or placed in storage, but it’s important to keep a few sentimental essentials. To give your child a sense of autonomy during this hectic and scary process, encourage them to choose three “special” items to take abroad.
This might be a favorite movie, a stuffed animal, framed pictures, or other sentimental treasures. Place the special items in a special box that is unpacked first at your new home, suggests Expat Child, to provide a familiar environment right off the bat.
Make Language Learning Fun
Moving somewhere new is a grand adventure, and it’s easiest for your child to transition when you treat it as a fun game.
Before moving, purchase child-friendly language flash cards and begin learning the names for things around your home. Showing your child that you also struggle with the new language is a way to ease their anxiety about moving to a foreign country.
Settle In As Soon As Possible
After the exhaustion of traveling, the last thing you want to do is unpack boxes. However, it’s important for children to return to normalcy as soon as possible. Setting up your new home immediately gives your child a familiar environment, easing fears about your new country.
Before you leave, consider purchasing large furniture items online to have delivered to your new home. For example, expats moving to Australia might shop for a sofa and entertainment set from Zanui or LivingStyle, an online funiture stores. After purchasing the basics, adding personal photos, artwork, and accessories makes your new home look familiar to your child.
Collecting addresses from your child’s friends is a good way to encourage them to stay in touch in the coming months and years. With up to 6.8 million Americans living abroad according to Migration Information, your children will likely make friends within the expat community. However, many kids enjoy having a postcard exchange with friends from back in the States. Your child can send a postcard from the new home and await one in return, allowing them to keep up with old friendships.
About the Author: Tim Wilcox is an adventurous person who loves to travel the world.