Moving overseas is never an easy process--besides the many tasks necessary to complete your move, culture shock can be staggering and difficult to overcome. Your children need time to adjust as well--to a new language, new foods, new customs, new friends, new school and a new home. It can be a bit overwhelming for anyone, let alone a child. If you will be moving overseas with your little ones, read on for tips to ease the transition to life in a new country.
Learn about the country with your child
Much of fear and anxiety stems from the unknown—this is no different for your child. Help make your child familiar with your new country prior to your move to ease the transition and ease apprehensions. Research your new home’s culture and talk about it often with your child.
- Visit expat forums to talk with other families about what it’s like to live there as a transplant. You will gain some useful insight for both you and your child.
- Try some of the regional cuisine. Depending on the country you are moving to, the food may be drastically different than what your little fussy eater is accustomed to. Trying some local favorites may help your child adjust to the new smells, tastes and textures in advance.
- Show him pictures of your new country. Beautiful landscapes, famous landmarks, exciting cities, native cultural celebrations, and traditional garb— anything colorful or unique will spark your child’s interest.
- Try learning some of the language. There are many children-oriented language books and tools on the market to help you child get a feel for your new country’s native tongue—since this is important for you as well, you can practice together.
You may be harboring your own fears about your move abroad, but it’s important not to let your child know. Children are like sponges, and will absorb any emotions to which they are exposed. If you are nervous or exhibiting negative emotions, your child will sense it and feel the same. Keep a positive attitude about the move, and speak about it as if it were an exciting adventure. Reiterate all of the high points of your journey often with your child, focusing on aspects you think she will be most excited about. For example, if your child is a social butterfly, frequently mention how many new friends she will meet after your move.
Find a good school
Your child's education in your new country is important. Research the schools in your new region thoroughly to ensure your child attends an optimal institution, with qualified instructors and an advanced curriculum. Worldwide educational systems and cultural norms vary greatly, so it's important to find a school that can meet your expectations--as well as prepare your child for any changes he should expect. Many countries attend school year-round, and others have classes on the weekends. Learning the differences in advance will make it easier for your child to adjust to the new schedule after he begins classes.
Keep in touch with loved ones
One of the biggest obstacles to overcome when moving internationally is adjusting to life without the comfort of friends and family nearby. Your child may worry about not seeing Grandma and Grandpa each weekend, or being able to play with her friends after school. Make sure she understands that she can keep in touch with loved ones--either through phone calls, Skype, letters or email. If your budget allows, plan a return trip some time after the move that your child can anticipate when she gets homesick. You can even opt to plan a little farewell party so she can say goodbye to friends and family members before you go. Helping you plan the party can be a fun distraction from the stress of moving as well.
Help them make friends
After you arrive in your new home, your child may have difficulty making new friends and feel lonesome, alienated and homesick. If your child is naturally an introvert, he made need a little push to begin the friend-making process. Make sure to consistently remind your child that it is okay to be different, and that there is nothing to fear when socializing with the kids at school. Talk to new neighbors with children or get friendly with other parents at school to set up play-dates to help your child begin establishing relationships.