Empowered parents – top tips for moving abroad with children – Children love stability, though you might not guess it to look at them charging around! A move abroad can cause real anxiety for youngsters, even while they’re trying to look keen to protect an excited mum and dad. But no matter how much you tell them they’ll enjoy the sunshine and space, they’ll be worried. So how can your parenting get them onboard with the move? Christopher Nye, Editor at Property Guides and father of two, says you need to consider the problem from their viewpoint and emotions, not just your own.
Chat to your children about emigrating as soon as it becomes an option in your lives. From the moment you start pondering the idea, either as a single parent or with your partner, involve them in the process and get their feedback. Ask them what excites them about the thought of moving to a new country, and equally as importantly, what scares them about it. Start to put their mind at rest and relieve any anxieties they might have, without over-promising. Whichever country you’re planning to move to, encourage them to find out about it through books and magazines, TV programmes, the internet and even social media. Again, note the things there that really interest them. Talk about how their school life will be different, how the daily routine is likely to change and what new activities you’ll be able to enjoy as a family at the weekends. Help them to understand the life-changing reasons for the big move. Younger children may find it useful to start an ‘emigrating scrapbook’, while reading them storybooks about other children who have moved abroad successfully can be a gentle way of introducing them to the emotions they can expect to feel along the journey.
How quickly your child or children settle down and start enjoying themselves in their new home will depend largely on them being happy at their new school. It’s the same wherever you move to, abroad or in the UK. Start researching school options as soon as you know where you’ll be settling. Ideally, contact other expats who have already moved there and ask about their own experiences. Depending on your long-term plans and where you will live, you may consider an international or British school, especially if you want your children to stay within the UK curriculum – just remember there will be fees for this. Children who return to the UK will not be in sync with their British peers when it comes to education, so if this is you be prepared for them to need to catch up. Typically, the best long-term option for helping children integrate fully into a new community is to put them in a local school, enabling them to find friends who live close to you. Be wary that older children can take more time to adapt and learn a new language. Either way, don’t waste time as the best schools tend to have the longest waiting lists.
Being close to your children’s new school is important, but so too is picking a family-friendly residential area. You want your children to have the chance to make new friends easily, to be able to meet up with people and enjoy the local attractions. Are there parks, local shops, cafés and sports and leisure amenities nearby, and what are the bus routes like? Many emigrants move to enjoy a beach or more outdoorsy lifestyle – how feasible this is will depend on where set up home. Your child’s behaviour and attitude to their new life will depend to a large extent on the new environment in which they find themselves. As a parent, you can help by inviting neighbours with families over a BBQ, or inviting schoolfriends round for tea.
Making your home feel like home
Creating the right environment within your new home is no less important and parenting tips begin even before you leave the UK. Moving abroad is an opportune time to have a clear out, but be selective when it comes to your children’s items. Help them pack and in particular encourage them to bring sentimental items. These will be reassuring and help them to feel at home from day one in the new house. Keep some of their own personal items as well as a few small popular household items with you when you travel to your new country, rather include them in things that are shipped, as these will be bring some immediate familiarity into the home.
With the internet and modern-day telecommunications, there is no excuse for not staying in regular contact with loved ones back in the UK. For children, this is not only comforting but it allows them to share their new experiences with family and friends, which is easy and cheap thanks to Skype or Facetime.
Continuing to celebrate festivals the way they are done in the UK, including Christmas or Easter, at least for the first few years, can be reassuring for children too. And introducing new friends to British traditions can be fun too. On a more intimate level, keeping up family habits or traditions is another subtle way of making little ones feel at ease. If family holiday photos are always hung in the hall, do the same in your new home. Likewise, if Saturday mornings in the UK meant big hearty family breakfasts, keep the tradition going!