If relocating to a foreign country can throw us off as adults, it is not hard to imagine that the effect will be amplified on children and take them twice as long to adapt. In fact, several studies have shown that moves can cause anxiety and detrimental behavioural changes in the long term. However, these can be circumvented with the right measures:
- Give them stability, not uncertainties
Do not drop the bomb at the last minute. The sooner you let them know, the more time they have to manage their emotions and embrace the idea.
People are generally worried about the unknown. Every confirmed plan is a certainty and a comfort. In the lead up to the move, be sure to plan the necessary. Avoid being put on waiting list for popular schools, hustling around to find a permanent accommodation, and going crazy with the paperwork when you arrive. Make the applications and arrangements before the move where possible, so you will be able to settle down as soon as possible.
Provide regular updates to your children. Tell them what kind of house you are going to be staying and where is it located; which school they will be studying at, when the school term starts and what student clubs they can join. Allow them to slowly visualise and piece together what their lives will be like in the new city.
Minimise unnecessary changes that may hinder their development. For instance, an international school may be worth the extra cost as they run a similar curriculum as your home country. A local school may be disruptive to your child’s learning and integrating into the school life is a struggle of its own.
- Minimise breaking relationships in the transition
Allow your child to say proper goodbyes to their friends and extended family members. Throw a farewell party if you can to introduce some cheer to the otherwise, sombre occasion.
Does your family own a pet? If so, try to relocate it along with you even though it may mean more hassle. Avoid adding more departures for your child to deal with emotionally. And, we all know that a furry friend can be the best comfort at times.
Lastly, educate and demonstrate that physical distance does not necessarily mean the end of relationships. For the first few months after the move, initiate Skype calls with family members back home and get your child to join. Soon, your child will catch on to the habit and keep in touch with their own friends virtually.
- Finding their fit in the new environment
The first step for any expat to build a sense of belonging is to pick up the local language. Is there a language class that you can sign up together with your child? Are there any local friends in your host country that can tutor your child or expose him to the language regularly through conversations? Making a list of the useful phrases and interesting lingos to memorise can be a good start.
Guide your child to join new communities – it can be a sports clubhouse, expat meet-up group, or local event! The key is to meet people with similar interests or hobbies and make new friends.
- Bring out the fun
It’s a new city! Don’t drown your child in all the unpacking, chores and errands. There may be a lot to do, but that can be done in due time. Your child’s emotional health can’t wait. No matter how bad the culture shock, climate or unforeseen circumstances can be, there are always positives to focus on, and your job is to help your child see them.
Be a tourist for a day and explore the main attractions. Hop on the family car and take a road trip to nearby cities. Shop at the major departmental stores or supermarkets and uncover things not sold at your home country. How’s that for familiarising your child with his surroundings?
- Be cool and sensitive
Most importantly, be a cool mum. Seriously. Give them enough space and freedom to hang out or just be alone. Check in on them regularly with casual questions – don’t press if they are not in the mood but be a very good listener whenever they share something, no matter how trivial it may be. Your attentiveness is all the emotional support they need.
This article may be about helping your child adjust to a relocation, but you will realise that in following the above tips, you are relieving some stress off yourself as well. Besides, don’t they say, a happy child makes a happy mum? Here’s to enjoying the expat life to the fullest as a family!
This article was provided by the experts at Expat Finder.
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