No amount of research can truly prepare you or your kids to move abroad. To leave everything behind that is familiar and comfortable to start anew. No matter what, the experience will bring about tons of different emotions for each member of your family. So how do parents prepare their children as best as possible for the road ahead?
1. Focus on Kids’ Interests
Give some thought to what your kids are truly interested in and use that info to your advantage. My son enjoys futbol (soccer!) and building Legos. My daughter enjoys cheerleading (not the easiest to find in Europe) and gymnastics. So I made it my mission to find options for them in Barcelona. Spend some time researching your new city and what is offered in the way of sports, activities, clubs, etc. your kids will enjoy. This will help them to focus on and get excited about a positive aspect of their relocation.
2. Play the Language Game
The hardest part about moving someplace new is how unfamiliar everything is. So imagine adding a new foreign language on top of that? What has given my children the comfort and confidence adjusting to life in Spain is being able to communicate with locals.
Do yourself a favor and introduce the new language, whatever it might be, to your children before making your overseas move. It will only help them feel more comfortable once you touch ground in your new surroundings. Try making or buying inexpensive language flashcards. Or place signs around your home labeling the objects.
3. Build Early Relationships
It sure helps to have a new friend in a strange, unfamiliar place. In my last article Advice to Future Expats (https://theexpatchronicle.net/advice-to-future-expats/) I shared how valuable connecting with other expat moms over Facebook was. The same applies to your kids and helping them to make new friends. There are actual playdate expat groups on social media filled with none other than…you guessed it – expat moms looking to help their kids build early relationships. Genius!
How excited would your kids be to have a new friend in the first or second week of your relocation? Sure you’ll have a million other things to think about once you move abroad, but this should be at the top of the list! You’ll be thankful you made the effort…
4. Make New Friends but Keep the Old
It’s important for the transition of your children to keep existing relationships strong. We printed up “new address” cards for the kids’ close friends so they could share our relocation news with their besties. Technology and social media make it easier than ever today to move abroad but still maintain your ties to home. Facetime, WhatsApp, Instagram and even TickTock help kids feel the connection with friends and family. But in addition, going the traditional snail-mail route is also fun!!
5. Plan Together
Making children as much a part of the planning process as possible is important! It helps them to feel valued and also gives a connection to their new home. For example, let kids decide (to an extent!) what their room will look like, how it will be designed, what personal items/toys to pack. they may choose to leave things similar to their old room or change completely. the idea is, the decision is left to them. Try to reduce the urge to control too much of this process.
You want children to be truly excited about the new space they will call their own…