A few weeks ago Nicole Webb, a journalist, writer and speaker, joined one of our live chats on Instagram, a very interesting one which we suggest to watch. Recently, she published a new book, China Blonde, which talks about expat life - moving from Australia, to Hong Hong and to China.
With this following article, Nicole wants to share the 7 top tips to help your child adjust when moving overseas. Embracing the expat journey is for sure a brilliant and valuable experience also for your children. It gives them the possibility to be immersed in a new culture, new habits and to get to know new people. Something that enriches their life from the very beginning and that they will carry with them for their entire life. Moving is an adventure and, just like it happens to adults, can also give some small struggles and it requires some time to adjust for children as well. For this reason Nicole shares here below some tips that will help your child to adapt.
Is there a right time? Not really, because every age brings its own challenges. It is true that, the younger the child is, the easier is to learn a language which can, indeed, help the transition. Some people think that it's better to move when they are still little because it will be easier to adapt, but this doesn't mean that they won't have any struggle. Older children, instead, would be more reluctant in moving as they have to leave friends. But at the same time, they will be older enough to actually remember it and gain much more value from this experience. The conclusion is that every child is unique and only you, as parents, can decide when it's the best time to do it. And also when it feels like you don't have a choice, don't worry! Every age has its pros and cons.
Make sure you can organize a farewell party or getting togher to say goodbye properly and to make this moment special to be remembered as a positive one. Acknowledging what's going to happen really helps kids to process the situation and the fact they you are moving. It's also important to reassure them and let them know it is ok to feel sad and all. Also, help them to keep contacts with theri friends, their friendship doesn't have to stop just because they live far away. It is more a "see you later!" rather than a "I'll never see you again".
Whatever is your destination, it is important that you start a routine and start exploring the new area. Just going for a walk or for shops, it will help to settle down and this is essential for your children. Remember that the more you feel settled the more your kids will do too. Go out and explore the place together. Also, experts reccomand to return to the place you've come from after six months, not earlier, as this will help a smoother transition.
The prized possessions of your children don't have to be packed, but they have to stay very close to them. Whatever it's a doll, a small car, a dinosaur or anything else, make sure they are around to make them feel comfortable, as it is crucial in this moment. Give them time and they will know when it's the right moment to let it go.
It could help to find a school which has a similar curriculum to the one back home, more for continuity, and it's something that you want to start checking as soon as possible. Depending on the country, you may also find different systems and if you are not sure which grade your kid should be placed in, go and get all the possible information. Also, keep in mind that they can always start with a school and you can see with a bit of time how they (and you) feel about it, you can always change it also later. One tip is also to find a school close to your home, if possible. It makes life easier for you as parent, but it can facilitate the transition of your child when it comes, for example, to play dates and fun with new friends.
It may sound like a cliche, but it is important to guide your children in this process. If they find it difficult with the new language, save some extra time to help them with new words. Same goes with organising play dates and fun activities with other children. Just remember that there's no need to force them, if they don't want to do certain things. Also, there will come for sure a moment when they refuse to go to school, which is a normal step of this process. You can talk with the teachers so they can keep an extra eye on them and provide support when needed.
Let's take the time to be there and listen to their feelings, emotions and struggles. Psychologists say that moving abroad can even feel like dying for them, when they are separated from their friends or any family, so we can all understand how communication is also crucial at this point. Don't expect that they settle down smoothly as you do so, culture shocks exists and also for children. Most likely, everything around them can feel quite overwhelming and unfamiliar, so be sure to make them feel listened, loved and understood.