International relocation: tips for parents
June 25, 2017
Think back to your first day at school, or your first school play, or taking the training wheels off your bicycle. These events are imprinted into our memories as being either highly positive or terrifying. Now imagine, if you will, that you experience these things in a new country …
Based on that scenario, it would seem as if relocating internationally with children would be a terrible idea, but in fact, the opposite is true! What better way to prepare your child to face the uncertain world than to experience the adventure of a new country with them? We’ve put together six simple steps that you can take to support your child(ren) and ease their transition, as well as yours, into expat life.
1) Involve children in decisions and research
Chances are the decision to move was an “adults only” activity, but now it’s family time. Buy a book on the host country, Google the host city and devise mini quizzes for your family to generate interest. Feeling competitive? Split your family into teams. The winning team can choose the activity for the first weekend abroad. And if you have pets, include them too!
2) Learn the language
Children have an amazing capacity to learn a second language and this is a wonderful way to access a new country and culture. It's also a great way to boost confidence if you can function at a basic level as soon as you land.
3) Focus on what can be experienced, not on what will be missed
Missing family and friends will be a certainty for everyone. Investigating what you can do together in the host country (that you wouldn’t have been able to do at home) can give everyone something to look forward to.
4) Discuss areas of commonality as well as difference
Adult intercultural training programs focus on bridging behavioural gaps, but for children it’s a balance of things that will stay the same as well as what will be different. An example might be looking at popular culture or whether the children wear school uniforms; anything to make your child(ren) feel like they belong.
5) Create a family action plan
Everybody should have a list of things that they want to see, do and achieve. When culture shock hits and homesickness is at its worst, that’s the time to tick off something on the list.
6) Plan for trips back home
Make sure your child(ren) stays in touch with relatives and friends back home. If or when they return, you want to make sure that nobody is starting their life from scratch.