Moving Overseas with Children
Before you Move
It is important to talk to your child as soon as you can
about the move. If it is possible, it would be best to take
your child with you on a pre-move trip to the new country.
Show them the new neighborhood and the school they will be
attending. If that is not an option, take pictures or a video
for them to get acclimated to their new surroundings and it
won't feel as such an "unknown". If you are not
relocating to a country that uses the same language, enroll
your child in a few introductory language lessons. The more
you can do to help your child feel comfortable, obviously,
the easier the transition is going to be.
Give your children a chance to express their feelings, and
try to be honest about your own feelings. Keep a positive
and optimistic outlook on the move, but don't be afraid to
talk to them about any uncertainties you have. Involve your
children as much as possible in the move. If they're old enough,
let them pack up their rooms or toys.
Especially for older children, it's important for them to
stay in touch with fiends, relatives, and other special people
in their lives. Have a going away party and have all their
friends sign a scrapbook with their addresses. Knowing they
can stay in touch is an important part of a successful move.
Plus, it will be a wonderful memory for those first few days
in a new environment.
International moves require careful examination of academic
programs. You need to understand the school's requirements
and academic programs of study and how your children will
fit into this school. Ask if the school has your children's
favorite subjects, such as art or music instruction, or country's
language is taught; if the program is not acceptable, you
will have to make other arrangements for your children to
learn the language. If you have children in high school looking
toward college in America, planning ahead is all the more
crucial. Inquire about the way the school does routine testing
and the procedures for applying to colleges. Comprehensive
information about most colleges is now available on the Internet,
which is a tremendous help to expatriates. But you must still
plan to submit college applications far in advance of students
attending school in America.
Many countries have what are commonly called American or
international schools. Check to see if one exists in your
area because the staff is very familiar with transient students.
In addition, the faculty is knowledgeable about the issues
and challenges these students experience, such as the application
procedure for United States colleges.
A letter from students' former teachers outlining their current
programs may be helpful to the administration at the new school.
Be sure you know the records that are required other than
school records, such as up-to-date immunization files.
Most of all, visit the facilities yourselves and speak to
the staff. You can inquire about the country's regulations
and how the school meets them. Ask for references from parents,
and follow up by calling several to learn their views firsthand.
After the Move
Don't spend too much time unpacking - at least not right
away! The essentials are important to unload, just to feel
settled. But wait on the less important stuff. Take time to
enjoy your new home with your family. Take walks and check
out the local restaurants and neighborhood hangouts or parks.
Be on the lookout for neighborhood kids, and help introduce
your children to them. If it's comfortable, invite some of
the neighborhood kids over for pizza and a video. Try to line
up some activities in which your child can participate after
the move: a sports team, music lessons, art classes, a scouting
troop. Not only will activities like these keep your children
involved; they'll also help them to feel like part of a group
- an important aspect of settling in.
Let your children have some input in planning the new house,
especially in choosing things for their rooms. Be tactful
if you choose another option, and let some decisions be entirely
up to them, for example, the placement of their bed or the
color of the paint in their room.
Above all, make sure your child knows you're there to listen
to their concerns and fears. Don't leave them in the dark,
and keep in mind that they will react to a situation the same
way that you react. So relax! And remember, a hug and a smile
can go a long way in making you both feel better!