By Vinti Mittal
Relocating can be a highly distressing event, particularly across continents, and it's sad to say that in the current economic climate it may not be out of choice. Some of the challenges may be purely organizational and practical such as looking for a new home, new schools or transporting belongings. Another challenging aspect of moving is the emotional impact: saying good-bye to friends and families, dealing with the unknowns along with anxieties, resentment and anger for having to leave behind the known for the unknown.
Families relocating with children are additionally taxed given the concerns about their adjustment. Research shows children react differently to transition. Young children may worry about being separated from parents whereas teens may be concerned about the new routines, social scenarios and fitting in with the crowd. At times, Expat Child Syndrome (ECS), an emotional stress caused by frustration from multiple foreign moves, can be seen in teens, impacting some more than the others.
Some tips to facilitate the transition:
- Keep them informed and involved
There is nothing more frightening then parents not informing children about the move. Share the plan and encourage discussions, while providing opportunities for all to express their feelings and concerns.
- Introduce them to the host country
Help familiarize children to the new country by looking for information online. Honest, matter-of-fact information is always helpful. Over-selling can raise expectations, leaving room for disappointment.
- Choose a school for your child
The child’s input in choosing the school is important. Before deciding, ensure they have the required information about the school.
- Involve them in house hunting
Include the children in the process of selecting a new home. If they can't accompany you, bring back pictures and information for their feedback. Remember, it’s their home, too.
- Organize a goodbye party
One of the most difficult parts of moving is saying goodbye. Hosting a "See You Soon" party - whether that be online or in person if COVID-19 restrictions allow - will emphasize that separation is not permanent. Ensure everyone exchanges contact information to keep in touch.
- Prioritize setting up their room
At the destination, set up the children's rooms first. Having their belongings and familiar routines in place helps expedite feeling settled.
- Explore the new place
Once in the new country, explore whatever the new place has to offer with friends and family. It is also important that children start connecting with peers to develop their new social circle.
- Make the move an enjoyable experience
Children often model adults taking clues about how they feel about the move. Displaying a positive attitude towards the relocation enables the child to feel safe and more confident about it.
- Stay emotionally attuned
Keep attuned to your children needs and feelings. From time-to-time, reassure and connect emotionally with them, encouraging them to accept and embrace these uncomfortable emotions. Also, ensure they are settling well in school.
- Stress the positives
Although relocating may present many challenges, it also brings in a lot of opportunities. Talk about new things they can do that they couldn’t do before.