Coping with moving means managing many pieces, which only increase when you’re moving with school-age children.
While you may be worried about settling into a new home, your kids’ whole world is going to be uprooted and turned upside down by the relocation. They will lose friends and familiarity and will most likely have a difficult time adjusting to the new circumstances.
Here’s how to reduce moving stress, help kids adjust to the transition – from moving day to school search, and even look forward to it too.
1. Talk to them about what is happening
Include your children in the conversation early on will help put them at ease during the transition. Fill them out as much information about the move as soon as possible. Listen to and answer any questions they may have, and be receptive to both positive and negative reactions. Sometimes, even if the move means an improvement in family life, children don't always understand that and may be focused on the negative aspects of the transition such as saying goodbye to existing friends.
If you have toddlers or pre-schoolers, try reading them children's books or use clips of their favourite TV show about the moving process to help your children understand their emotions and deal with them positively. We recommend The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day by Stan and Jan Berenstain as one to check out.
2. Don’t forget to pause for snuggles
A baby doesn't care if the knickknacks are all unpacked. They want you to spend time with them. If you can be engaged and playful with them, that will make a big difference in how they adjust. So don’t forget to make time for lots of hugs and tickles. When they're off to their new school, you can take your time to decorate the place.
3. Let your child “help”
Put your pre-schooler in charge of packing up some of their books or games so they feel they're contributing. Recruit your kids to handle simple jobs that need to be done prior to your move is a win for both of you. If you have small children, we recommend getting them boxes to play with while packing up their rooms. Give them a list that include cleaning duties and toys that need to be packed before the move.
With a proper spin, get colourful stickers or tape to mark each box for a fast and easy kid-approved organization method. Teach them how to pack correctly while letting them be a part of the process.
4. Make it fun
Give your children their own miniature packing box that can be decorated with stickers, paints and pictures and used for a few of their favourite things. Ensure the box is small enough to place on the plane and travel with them to their new destination.
5. Visuals are useful
At this age, seeing is believing. Ideally, take your children to visit the new house or play in the new yard before the move. If that's not possible, take a camera or video recorder with you when you visit. Take pictures and videos of the new home, the child’s room, the school and parks nearby. Utilize Google Maps and have virtual tour of the local playground, shops in the neighbourhood and their new school. Your children will get more excited before they arrive and have a firmer idea of what to expect.
Encourage your children to research the area you’re moving to, so that it’ll be more familiar to them once they move. Research sports teams, clubs, and other local groups to find out the best ways to immerse your family in the new town.
6. Make it creative
One of the things that stresses out kids most during the move is that they don’t have any control over their surroundings. Encourage them to decorate their room such as choosing the colour of their walls or let them draw out the layout of their room. Involving children in the move in this way has the added benefit of making them feel in control at a time when events in their lives can seem out of their hands.
7. School Planning
Your children’s education will always be a priority, relocating abroad as a family does not need to derail their progress. Parents must make a choice that best suits their child’s temperament, interests, strengths and weaknesses, while ensuring that their choice is in line with their child’s future goals.
How to begin
If your children are changing schools, you’ll need to make sure you have their records transferred to the new school. However, to make sure you’re making the best choice, it’s worth taking the time to consider your options.
To begin the enrolment process with the new school, make sure all records are transferred as soon as possible. Talk to teachers and administrators before your child’s first day of school and be sure to also let the new school know about any special needs or issues your child may have.
Attending School in Thailand
If you are a holder of a Thailand work visa, you are required to apply for a Student Visa, also known as Non-Immigrant ED Visa for your children at the Thai Embassy in your country of origin. Some countries allow you to apply for a 3-month, 6-month, or 1-year Thai visa at the Thai Embassy or Thai Consulate. They do this in order for you to begin the process of converting your first visa to a more appropriate visa type through the school upon your arrival in Thailand.
Click the links for more information about Non-Immigrant-ED Visa
Should I choose a local or international school?
This is a vital decision that will decide what education your child receives.
In Thailand, the first 12 years (6 years of elementary and 6 years of secondary) of free public schooling is free for Thai nationals, guaranteed by the National Education Act. However, to qualify for free, state education, a child must have at least one Thai parent and be considered a Thai national. Foreigners would require paying tuition and other fees to enrol in any public school, bilingual or not. While the fees will be much lower than their private and international counterparts, this isn’t a viable option for most expat kids as the classes are conducted mainly in Thai language.
Private Schools in Thailand, also known as Bilingual Schools or English Program, mostly follows the curriculum set by Ministry of Education to excel students on their national standardize tests. Some of the private schools may integrate other international programs.
The resources and facilities available at these schools are better than their public counterparts, and they also offer a wide range of extracurricular activities. Furthermore, they often hire foreign teachers as well as Thai teachers, with many classes being taught in English.
In terms of fees, they are cheaper than international schools. This may be a good option if you do not wish to pay the steep tuition fees required by sending to your kids to international schools.
International schools are a good choice for expatriates who intend to return to their home country with their children in the near future, as well as for parents who intend to send their children to schools abroad.
Unlike public schools, the size of the class is smaller and tend to have better and wider range of facilities and resources available for your children, which means higher cost.
The diversity in curriculum choices and the goals of each school vary widely but they usually offer a more comprehensive and country-specific curricula. Hence, their qualification is widely accepted by many universities and colleges globally. If you might be relocating again while your children are in education this may be the best option for you.
Discover great International Schools in Thailand here
How can I prepare my children for an education abroad?
Ideally, you can visit the new school you have chosen with your children. This will help ease them into their new environment. They will be able to meet their future teachers and get a feel for what their new school will be like.
If that is not possible, you can arrange a brief video call with the new teacher can also help, especially if the teacher is skilled at providing a developmentally appropriate connection for the child.
When is the best time to move with children?
The decision though is up to you and your family. If you have the flexibility to choose when you move your family, then you should consider moving during the holidays or before the school year.
Your kids will be able to start the new term together with other new kids and everyone will be starting the year together. This way, your children can adapt to their new environment much easier, and their studies will not get interrupted.
Most importantly, give it time
Uproot your children or teens from their familiar surroundings can be as heart breaking as it is exciting, especially if your older child has to leave their friends they worked hard to make last time. So don’t be surprised if they don’t settle in straight away.
The theory generally goes, that the older the child the more likely the move is to pose challenges because they have a stronger connection to their previous home.
Be calm and patient as they work through emotions, but continue to set appropriate, positive, and healthy routines. Make sure you remain positive about the new home as young children often pick up on their parents’ emotions – especially when the parent is stressed or anxious. Who knows? The move may well end up being the best choice your family has ever made!