Perhaps your husband got a new job position in another country or just to another location. You are excited on one hand but are worried about how your kids will fit in? Will they make new friends quickly and assimilate well? Will there be gaps in education when changing school systems?
Moving to a new country with kids is challenge for the most seasoned of expats. It breaks your heart to see them say goodbye to their teachers, classmates, sports teams, etc.
I can clearly remember how my then six-year-old daughter bawled her eyes out in the back seat of my car when we had to say goodbye to all her kindergarten chums in South Africa. What I found so profoundly sad was seeing her crying hard while choking back the sound. She didn’t want me to observe how heart-broken she was. She had to be so brave.
Although kids can be resilient, they still have to adapt to the new rhythm of each move. It is important that you prepare your children psychologically ahead of the move so that they can be in the best state of mind when they arrive in the new country.
To get her up and running before the move, one of my clients and I worked on her getting her house in Switzerland rented out, researched new schools and sport organizations in Germany. The family was able to look at the websites of the new schools and sports clubs to give the children a visual of what life looked like in their new environment. This gave the kids time to mentally adjust to the move before even leaving their home country.
Depending on the age of the child, the move will affect them in different ways. Moving with babies and toddlers is the easiest for both kids and parents. In most cities there are websites and magazines for new families with small children. It is much easier for the mothers to meet new friends from playgroups, toddler activities and kindergarten. I often found that I became friends with the moms of whom my kids invited over for play-dates.
But what if your kids have already started school? If possible, it is best to go to the new country in advance and have your children check out the schools first-hand. In some cases you can already decide on which school your child is going to and have them meet the teacher and classmates.
It is your job as a parent to reassure the child about learning a new language. If you are moving to a country where you don’t speak the language, hire a tutor for the whole family and learn the new tongue together.
That is what we did before moving back to Germany. I remember my son’s excitement when he got a good grade on his German test just after a few weeks of arrival much to his new teacher’s surprise. It was a challenge on many levels for sure, but we kept up with the language tutoring in the new country until we felt he was proficient, which was two years.
Moving a teenager is a whole other ball game. It is the hardest of ages to move since their friends have so much influence. Encourage your kids to spend lots of time with friends before the move and plan a farewell party. Social media plays a big part in their lives at this stage. Set up Internet connection as soon as you get settled.
Once in the new country, I found it was important that my daughter continue with her favorite sport, cheerleading. Continuality in sports and activities seems to smooth over some of the rocky waves of the transition. It is also important to keep her self-esteem up. Hiring a tutoring and providing emotional support seemed to help.
Are you transitioning to a new country or new environment? If you’d like to speak about your concerns, just fill out the comment form and hit “send”. I’d be glad to have a 30-minute chat about it.