Whether you’ve been asked to relocate for your career, have decided to seek new opportunities elsewhere, or simply fancy a change of scenery, there can be little doubt that a move abroad presents a wealth of benefits. It is your family’s chance to explore a fresh culture; a time to embrace new experiences. However, before your move, it’s important to think about the negative effects that your move could have – particularly when it comes to your children.
You see, while relocation presents numerous positive adventures for families with children it won’t be without its upheavals. Regardless of your child’s age he or she is likely to be worried about the changes that are about to occur, including moving away from family and friends and entering unknown territory with new languages, culture, and landscapes.
Expat Child Syndrome is a psychologically recognized disorder, which can occur in children during any stage of the move. Often resulting in withdrawn or disruptive behavior, feelings of isolation, and emotional stress it reflects the trauma that many expat children feel when they’re removed from their home comforts. Forced to leave schoolmates, family members, and often pets behind, some children struggle to make new friends, settle into the home environment, and concentrate on schoolwork. Your child’s happiness and wellbeing are of the utmost importance to you. So, how can you ensure the move is a comfortable one for all involved?
Things to consider before making your move
Although it’s certainly true that children are adaptable creatures often capable of understanding far more than we give them credit for, a move abroad is a huge leap for toddlers and teenagers alike. Take a moment to consider the positive steps you could take to ensure a smooth, enjoyable few months or years.
Involve your child in discussions
Be sure to involve your child at every stage of your move, and prepare him or her for the changes that are likely to occur in the days and weeks ahead. Where will you be living? What experiences might they be able to enjoy? Encourage your child to ask questions, and be patient with your answers. Depending on your child’s age you should also prepare to discuss safety. What precautions must you take in order to ensure your child’s safety and comfort in a new environment?
Consider your child’s educational needs
Regardless of his or her age, school will have become a huge part of your child’s life already. It’s no doubt a place where your child feels comfortable; a place where his or her friends reside. If you’ve been afforded the luxury of choosing your destination consider somewhere that English is spoken freely, and where expatriate schooling is an option. Hong Kong is one such location; an International school in Hong Kong will offer your child a familiar environment and opportunities to interact with other expatriate children while following a syllabus with which he or she is already acquainted.
Encourage your child to make memories
Your child is no doubt worried about leaving his or her old life behind; the sense of loss is comparative with grief and can take some time to subside. Encourage your child to create a box of memories, which can provide an endless source of comfort while you’re away. Include photographs, gifts from loved ones, scraps of fabric and toys. Suggest a similar technique when you arrive in your new home; gathering together photographs and mementos will allow your child to reflect on the positives of your move, and demonstrate aspects of his or her new life to friends back home.
Retain as much normality as possible
Your surroundings and circumstances are about to change beyond recognition. However, there will be elements of your family routine that you’re able to maintain, including bedtime stories, mealtimes, and certain hobbies you enjoy together. Reassure your child that your affections won’t waiver, and that family life is still of utmost importance to you. Now is an ideal time to encourage your child in new endeavors, and to discover a whole host of opportunities you’ve not had before. They will provide your child with the chance to make new friends and to view your move in a positive light.
Above all, remember that your child is likely to have formed an opinion regarding your changing circumstances, and will be keen to share his or her views with you during every stage of your journey. Your move abroad is the perfect opportunity to engage in conversation with your child; a chance to discover the hopes, fears, and dreams that he or she holds for the future. While the next few weeks and months are likely to inspire doubt and confusion, you can be assured that your family is in for a whole host of wonderful surprises and experiences – as well as plenty of opportunities to bond. Enjoy those precious moments because they’ll fly by so fast.