How to help expat kids to settle into life overseas  

March 24, 2020

If you have made the decision to move away for work, the age of your children will impact the level of upheaval moving overseas is likely to cause. Generally speaking, moving to a new country is more difficult for older children who are settled at school with a good circle of friends than a baby or toddler. However, if you rely on a support network of family or friends a move to another country may well be very challenging. 

If you are planning to move to another country with your children, there are things you can do to help the process of settling your children into school and life in their new home:

If your children are of school going age, many parents try to move at the beginning of the summer holidays. This may not be the best option if your children don’t have peers of their own age to socialise with. Instead, if possible, move towards the end of the summer holidays so you have a week or two to settle in before school starts.

One of the most difficult things about moving for a child is lack of control. If a child feels they are constantly being dictated to they may become resentful and angry. Providing your expat kid with choices where appropriate may help them feel more in control and make the settling in process easier. Some good options include:

  • having an opinion on the school they attend
  • decorating their room
  • letting them unpack their own things 
As soon as you get to your new home, try to find other expat families with children, sports teams or other activities that allow your children to meet others as soon as possible. Although it is good for them to have expat friends, it is also beneficial for them to befriend local children where you live.
If you are moving to a country where they speak a different language, ensure your children have the basics early on. Either enrol them in a language class or if you feel confident in the language, teach them yourself. 
Although they may protest at the time, children thrive on routine. Even though you may have changed country, time zone and maybe even season, try to maintain your usual routine. Have some familiar foods for the first few days at least, keep their bedtime routine as similar as possible and try to make your house or apartment as homely as possible as quick as you can. 
Once school starts, your child is going to face an entirely different set of challenges. Help them to settle into school overseas by:

Do your research and ensure your child has everything they need on their first day. Ask the school what you have to supply and what is available in the school.

Some schools require students to have a tablet or to provide their own stationary whereas others provide everything. Knowing what’s needed will make a big difference to your expat child on their first day. 

One of the most difficult things for a new child settling into a new school is to understand what they have to do and when. Help ease your child into their first few days by asking the school what a typical day is like and sharing this information with your child. Information like: 

  • when and where is lunch eaten? 
  • do children bring their own food or is there a canteen? 
  • does your child need permission to go to the bathroom?
  • are there daily/weekly/monthly tests?

If possible, have your child visit the school before they start so they are somewhat familiar with the surroundings. 

Last but by no means least keep the channels of communication open. Ask your child more specific questions. Young children particularly, find the ‘how was your day?’ question overwhelming and you may get a monosyllabic answer. Help them by asking more specific questions like:

  • what was the best thing that happened today?
  • what was the worst? 
  • what part of the day did you find most challenging? 
  • who did they speak to during break/recess?

Your child’s answer to these kinds of questions will help you understand whether they are settling in well or not.  

Ensure your children receive the best healthcare possible while you live overseas with international health insurance for families