Taking your kids to live abroad can be the best thing you ever do for them. It’s an exciting time, but can also be a huge upheaval for children who have to change school and make new friends. Here are our top tips for making that transition a little smoother.
Moving abroad with children throws up a whole range of challenges on top of the benefits of raising them in a new country. Finding schools, allaying fears and ensuring your children integrate into a new culture are important aspects to consider when relocating to another country.
Planning for happy children should be the beginning of the process, rather than an afterthought
Childcare and schools
This is the biggest consideration many families have when moving somewhere new. What type of schools are available? What is the best option for your child – local or international school? Is it easy to find pre-school care and what is the expense? How smooth will the kids’ transition into a new school system be? This is even more challenging when their new mates will be speaking a whole new language.
Ensuring that you end up with happy children should be the beginning of your planning, rather than an afterthought. Once you begin considering moving abroad, researching schools and childcare should take place right away. Looking into which schools are in the area, if there are waiting lists for particular schools, the costs (if any) of schools and childcare, admission and enrolment requirements, curriculums and their compatibility with your child’s current curriculum, school hours, and language bridging programmes if applicable.
Timing the move
There is no ‘best’ time to move abroad with young children. Many families wait until a major shift such as the beginning of school, in between primary and secondary school, or until the end of the school year. Parents know their children best, so timing often hinges on an individual child’s current situation.
Older children are usually less flexible adopting a new school curriculum, language or location. This doesn’t mean older children won’t thrive in a new destination; however, adaptability based on age should be considered for each individual child. Older children who don’t settle in can end up feeling alienated and begin to truant. Indeed this is why anyone planning on home educating abroad will face serious questioning from local authorities trying to prevent kids falling through the gaps.
For older kids you will have to decide how long to allow them to spend online with friends back home
Moving abroad is a big transition for kids, who often do better with the move when they have familiar items present. For younger kids this could be soft toys, pictures, room decorations and furnishings; the physical aspects of your previous life can make the transition to your new world easier for the little ones. For older kids you will have to decide how long to allow them to spend online with friends back home – it’s a balancing act between embracing the new and feeling secure from the familiarity of old friends on Facebook and Snapchat.
Embrace the new culture
Children model the behaviour of their parents and will assimilate into a new culture more easily if you are embracing the culture too. If your children see you trying new things, open to new experiences and enjoying the new culture, they are likely to follow suit. For children the integration into the new culture will help them immensely with making friends and feeling at home.
Children model the behaviour of their parents and will assimilate into a new culture much easier if you are embracing the culture too
Long before you move you should be planning projects about the country. Your kids can start learning the language, maybe watching the local TV and listening to local pop stars via online radio stations. Start introducing the foods they will be eating too.
Making new friends will be a precursor to children enjoying their new home and settling in. Older children will often settle much better if they meet friends early into their move, or perhaps making a local penfriend before they arrive. Connecting with other expats who have children and organising playdates in the early weeks of your arrival will help children feel connected and enable them to bond with children their age; making the transition to a new place easier.