There's no question that moving abroad can be a daunting prospect, but for children in particular the thought of a new life in a different country could be met with some trepidation.
Whatever age your children are, they’re likely to have mixed feelings about the idea, particularly older children and teens who might see the move as an uprooting from their friends and familiarity at home.
Talking to them about it with them can go a long way in helping to address any anxiety they might be feeling - here are a few ideas to help make that conversation a little bit easier!
Learn about the move together
Depending how old your children are, it might be difficult for them to grasp the reality of moving abroad. Younger children are likely to be less aware about what’s going on and might find it difficult to grasp. You might find it useful to try thinking outside the box with some more creative forms of communication - younger children might respond well to visual stimulus, like finger puppets or dolls. Slightly older children might enjoy reading about fictional characters that have done the same thing – why not try reading story books together which address topics like moving abroad or even moving house? Another option could be to help them to do their own learning about their new home by using the internet.
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What will the move offer them?
For many older children, the thought of moving away from their lives and friends is likely to be unthinkable. However, doing some research and being able to talk to them in detail about how their new life might actually look can go a long way. What school will they attend and does it have any unique facilities? Is there the opportunity to take up an activity that they haven't been able to do previously - for instance horse riding or (something)? Even the prospect of having a larger bedroom or playroom, or a bigger garden, might help kids get used to the idea of moving abroad.
Visits from friends and family
Although it's rarely a good idea to make unrealistic promises, the prospect of visits from close friends and family can be a great incentive - especially during the initial move which might involve some upheaval. Involving your children in planning visits from family members or friends will help them to feel more involved; is there anyone in particular they're missing, or had a close bond with at home? What part of their new life would they be most excited about showing to visitors? Whether it's the local town, a favourite place to eat, or even just a special area in your garden or yard, giving children a little responsibility when it comes to looking after guests helps them to feel as though they 'own' part of the move.
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As a general rule, we think that keeping conversations positive and highlighting the change of lifestyle as a new start, rather than the end of anything, is a good way to help your children adjust to the thought of living abroad. It’s also important to be honest: it might be challenging at times but helping them to understand better will go a long way in making the process much easier – for them and you!
Have you moved your family abroad? Share your tips for an easy relocation with other expats: https://expatexplorer.hsbc.com/hintsandtips/lists.