Expat kids: how to prepare children for life overseas  

June 02, 2020
When it comes to preparing children for an overseas move, there are a number of steps you can take to help your child process, adjust and build emotional resilience around the move:
It is unlikely anyone else knows a child like a parent does, particularly during the early years. Leverage that knowledge when it comes to informing and preparing your child for a move. Are they anxious or nervous about change in general? If so, you will need to take a more considered approach to telling them about your overseas move. Are they the kind of child who thrives on new experiences? In this case a more relaxed approach may work for them. Their current stage in life is also likely to play a part in how a child reacts to news of a move, do they have a close group of friends? Are they in an important school year? All these things will play a part in how your child views news of an overseas move. 
All children take emotional cues from their parents. If you or your partner are feeling unsure or uneasy about the move, it may not be time to involve your children. Wait until you have firmly made the decision that taking this opportunity is the very best decision for your family and are clear on the reasons why before you tell your children.
Provide your children with as much advance notice of your move as possible. Similarly, to an adult, this will allow your kids process the news, raise any concerns and accept the upcoming change. It also provides your family with the time to prepare for your new adventure.

It is likely your child is going to have concerns about moving away. Depending on their age and your family situation they might include worries around:


·         leaving friends

·         changing schools

·         making new friends

·         learning a new language

·         staying in touch with family at home


Acknowledge their fears but reassure them that you will do everything possible to make their new situation work for them. Talk about other times of change when they felt nervous but coped with like:


·         starting school

·         taking up a new hobby

·         passing an exam or test

·         going to camp or spending time away from home

Where possible, involve your children in the plans you are making for living in a foreign country. Choices can vary from what toys to bring to how to decorate their new room. Having influence over the move will help children feel more in control of the situation. Consider involving them in choosing their school. If you are evaluating education systems or deciding between international schools and local schools for your expat child, explain the difference, ask their opinion. If possible, have them accompany you on a visit to shortlisted options before making a final decision. 
We are creatures of habit and routine is essential for most children from birth onwards. In times of change routine can be particularly important as it brings a sense of normality to an evolving situation. While it will not be possible to maintain every element of your usual routine before, during and after the move, agree some key elements with your family. It could be Sunday pancakes, a weekend trip to a local playground or a story before bed. It will maintain a sense of normality and help expat children feel at home no matter where in the world you are.
Fortunately there are a variety of books for children around moving away. You can find options for young children, older children, kids who are looking forward to the move or kids who are feeling anxious or sad about it. Reading stories about a significant change has the effect of helping naming feelings they are having and bringing up topics for discussion that they had not thought of.
If you are moving to a country that speaks a different language, it is a good idea to enrol your children, and yourself, into language classes before you leave. Speaking the local language will make your expat experience much richer. 
Last but by no means least provide your child with regular reassurance that no matter what happens, your love, support and bond as a family will remain. They may need extra attention during this period of change so arrange additional one on one time doing some of their favourite activities so you can check in with them as well as having some much-needed fun! It is also important to plan for how your children will stay connected to friends, family and your home culture while you are overseas. While social media makes connection easy, it may also be nice for your children to stay in touch in a more tactile way through sending postcards and letters to friends and family.

There is no doubt you are going to have to overcome some hurdles on the road to becoming an expat family. Taking the time to prepare your children for expat life will make your role as an expat parent much easier. 

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