Moving abroad is an exciting and life-changing experience, but it can also be a challenging transition, especially when you have children. As a parent, you want to ensure that your kids not only adapt to their new environment but also thrive in it. In this article, we’ll explore the steps and strategies for preparing your children for an international move, using a real-life experience of a family’s relocation to Spain as a backdrop.
Living Abroad Changes You
Living abroad offers a unique opportunity to broaden one’s horizons and immerse oneself in a different culture. The experience can be enriching, but it can also be demanding, especially when children are involved. In the case of the family moving to Spain, it’s their second overseas move, and they have multicultural kids and a pet dog to consider. This increased family size can bring more stress, cost, and effort into the equation, making proper preparation crucial.
Preparing for the Big Move
Communication is Key:
Effective communication is essential when moving abroad with children. It’s important not to overdo it, especially with young kids who can adapt to changes surprisingly well. To generate interest and ease the transition, you can show them videos or pictures of the destination and share local activities and games. Keep an open dialogue with your children, encouraging them to express their feelings and concerns about the move. Address any worries they may have and provide reassurance.
Alongside sharing pictures and videos of the destination, consider providing some cultural orientation. Teach your kids about the language, customs, and traditions of the new country. This knowledge can help them feel more at ease and reduce cultural shock upon arrival. In the age of technology, use virtual tours and online resources to explore new destinations. Many museums and landmarks offer virtual tours, which can be an exciting way for your children to familiarize themselves with their new surroundings. Introduce your kids to the new culture through sensory experiences. Try cooking dishes from the new country, playing traditional music, or watching movies that showcase its culture.
Language and Educational Preparation:
If the destination has a different language, encourage your children to learn some basic phrases and words before the move using language apps and classes to make the learning process fun and interactive. Additionally, if your children are school-aged, contact their future school and request educational materials or a curriculum plan. This dual approach can help them prepare academically and feel more comfortable with the education system in the new country.
Create a Moving List:
Moving abroad with young children is a significant commitment, and starting your planning as early as possible is crucial. Planning can help you stay organized and focused during the process. Creating a detailed moving list can be a lifesaver when relocating with young family members. This list will help you stay organized and ensure no essential tasks or items are overlooked. Additionally, encourage your children to create a moving scrapbook. This can be a fun and creative way for them to document their current life and memories before the move.
Make your children feel included in the moving process. Allow them to participate in packing by choosing which toys to bring with them and which to leave for donations. Have your children pack their favorite toys, security blankets, or comfort towels if your children have any. These items can serve as transitional objects, providing comfort and familiarity during the move.
Ensure your children are up to date with vaccinations and carry copies of their medical records. Research healthcare facilities and doctors in your new location, so you’re prepared in case of any health issues.
Teach your children about safety in the new location, including understanding local traffic rules and being cautious in unfamiliar surroundings.
Farewell Rituals and Transition Plan:
Consider creating special farewell rituals to give your children a sense of closing a chapter. This could involve saying goodbye to friends, visiting favorite places one last time, or having a small farewell party. Simultaneously, work with your children to create a transition plan that can give them a sense of looking forward to something new. This plan can include goals and milestones to achieve in the new country, such as making new friends or exploring specific places.
What to Expect with Young Children After Moving Abroad
Loss of Appetite:
It’s common for young children to experience a loss of appetite in the first few weeks after moving abroad. Factors like disruption of sleep patterns, jet lag, dehydration, and changes in water, food, and environment can contribute to this. To address this issue, offer a variety of healthy foods, be creative with meals, maintain a family eating routine, and allow your child to handle their food preferences.
Moving can be tough for young children, as they are sensitive to changes in routine and environment. To help them adapt, engage in outdoor activities, stick to familiar routines, and provide a sense of stability.
It’s common for children, especially during the early stages of the move, to feel homesick and miss their previous home. Some may express a desire to go back to their previous home. Reassure them that it’s natural to feel this way and that it will improve with time. To help them, revisit places you showed them in pictures before the move, schedule regular video calls with family, and encourage social interaction and making new friends.
Sending young children to school can help them settle in, but it can also expose them to various infections. Additionally, the stress of the move may weaken their immune systems. Be prepared by understanding the local healthcare system and having essential emergency contacts.
Possessiveness with Things:
It’s common for young children to become more possessive, especially after a move. This behavior often stems from their need for security in an unfamiliar environment. Encourage them to keep their belongings as a source of comfort and gradually help them adapt to the new environment.
If your children are school-aged, anticipate an adjustment period academically. The curriculum, teaching style, and expectations in the new country may differ from what they are accustomed to. Provide support and encouragement as they adapt to their new educational environment.
Children may experience a cultural adjustment period where they encounter new social norms, customs, and traditions. Encourage them to ask questions and be curious about the new culture. Learning about and respecting the local culture can help them feel more integrated.
Young children may face language challenges, especially if they are not fluent in the new language. Support their language development by enrolling them in language classes or programs. Additionally, encourage them to make friends with local children to improve their language skills through interaction.
Children might experience loneliness as they adjust to a new environment. Facilitate opportunities for them to socialize, make new friends, and engage in activities they enjoy to combat feelings of isolation.
Children may initially experience cultural confusion as they navigate between their home culture and the new culture. Be patient and help them understand and appreciate the differences between the two.
Education System Differences:
Be prepared for differences in the education system. These disparities may include teaching methods, grading systems, and academic expectations. Communicate with your children’s teachers to stay informed and support their academic progress.
The experience of moving abroad can prompt self-identity exploration in children. Encourage them to embrace their unique background and experiences and provide a safe space for them to express their thoughts and feelings about their identity.
Sibling dynamics may change during the move, as children adapt to a new environment and social circles. Be mindful of any potential shifts in sibling relationships and provide opportunities for them to bond and support each other.
Dealing with Different Time Zones:
Moving to a location with a significant time zone difference can affect children’s routines, such as their sleep schedules. Gradually adjust their routines to match the local time zone to minimize disruptions.
Adaptation to Local Holidays and Traditions:
Encourage your children to embrace and participate in local holidays and traditions. This can be a fun and immersive way for them to connect with the new culture and community.
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