How do I prepare my child for an international move? 

23 June 2022

Making the decision to move overseas is momentous for anyone but it can be particularly challenging if you have a young family. An expat assignment represents a great opportunity for you career wise. It is often an indicator of senior leadership potential. However, the impact on your wider family must be considered too. Your children may not be enthusiastic about moving away from the friends, family, and a school they love to travel to an unknown part of the world. 

Before broaching such a significant move with your children ensure you are confident taking this opportunity is right for you and your family. Children not only pick up on parental anxiety, they are negatively affected by it too. Framing the move as a family adventure will make it something to look forward to. 
Once you are sure the move is right, share the news with your children. Knowing your children, you may be able to anticipate the reaction they will have. If they are independent and love an adventure they may be delighted. If they are more reserved and resistant to change, they may take the news badly. Either reaction is valid but reassure them that nothing in life is all good or all bad. It’s ok to feel different things about this upcoming experience. The important thing for them to remember is you, as their parents are there to confide in and help them deal with whatever emotion they are feeling. 
Part of the fun of moving somewhere new is all the different things there are to do there. Encourage your child to research life in your new home. Encourage them to make a list of activities they would like to try or places they would like to visit. This will help build excitement and provide a great resource for weekends as you settle in.

If your child is younger, help them to understand what an international move means. Storytelling is a great way to communicate this to children. Did you move as a child? Share your story with them. 

Find books about moving school or house to help start the conversation. Children learn really well through role playing, use dolls to show them what it means to say good bye to people. How they might feel sad but also about the fun things they can look forward to in their new home. 

If possible, plan a family holiday to your new home before you finally move. This helps your child become more familiar with your new home. Incorporate a visit to their new school if you visit during term time. This is a powerful way to make moving schools less daunting. It’s also an opportunity to try some of the fun activities they have listed. 
Help your child record their moving experience by creating a moving book. It can include their favourite things about your current home, including pictures of friends and family. Encourage them to include what they are looking forward to when you move. Use their moving book to keep a record of the fun activities you did while you were visiting.
There is undoubtedly going to be days when moving feels like too much for your child. Their last day at their current school or saying goodbye to friends or grandparents is going to be difficult. Acknowledge their sadness and talk to them about it. Encourage them to share their feelings when they do arise. Let them know it is normal to feel sad and there are things you feel a bit sad about too.  
As you get closer to the move, encourage your child to become involved in packing. Depending on how long you are moving away for, you may wish to allow your child to choose some special pieces of furniture to bring with them. This could be a beloved bed or desk. Creating a sense of familiarity is an important part of settling into a new home. 
Arrange a party or event to allow your child to spend some quality time with their friends before you leave. Arrange one on one visits with close friends to allow your child to say goodbye to them. Leaving is likely to be difficult for them so ensure you are there to help them with difficult feelings. 
When you arrive in your new destination, prioritise setting up their bedrooms. Having a familiar place to relax and play is important for your child. 
When you arrive in your new home, do the best you can to keep your child’s schedule and sleep routine. This is going to be tricky if jet lag kicks in but the effort will be worth it as routine is key to helping children settle in.
Help your child stay in contact with close friends on a regular basis, especially initially. Plan video calls and emails to stay in touch. Share photos of what you have seen and done as a family. Encourage younger children to draw or colour in and post them to their friends. 
Moving overseas with a child is difficult. If you think it is likely to be a problem for you, ensure your family global health insurance has an expat assistance programme so you can access support should you need it.