Moving abroad is a difficult change for everyone, especially children and teenagers. Adjusting to living in a new country, studying at a new school, developing friendships from scratch and perhaps even learning a new language is often a huge challenge for children.
While it’s perfectly normal for your children to show some reluctance and even have difficulties at first, these tips will help them get on the right track:
Prepare them psychologically
Because moving abroad is a big challenge for children, you should prepare them psychologically well in advance. If possible, take them to get to know the neighbourhood where they will live, the new house and even introduce them to some of the neighbours.
Recognise the challenges they will face.
The first thing parents should bear in mind is that age can greatly influence the different challenges children face when they are forced to live in another country.
Pre-school children are more likely to be affected by cultural differences related to body language, precisely at a time when this becomes more important for human communication.
Older children face transitional struggles at school and with others their age.
Finally, adolescents will encounter obstacles in a more generalised context. As they struggle at this difficult stage to develop their own identity and build strong relationships with their peers, the change of country is likely to cause instability and frustration.
Aside from these age-specific challenges, the best thing parents can do is to minimise problems (without belittling them) and eliminate any other disturbances within their control.
Create a comfortable home environment
The goal is to make your child feel safe and comfortable in their new home. The sooner you empty the boxes and arrange their belongings, the sooner they will be able to adjust to their surroundings.
If possible, prioritise their bedroom. Get them excited about having a new room and get them involved in the decorating process. Decorate it with a mix of newly acquired items and items from the past to create a sense of security.
Keep in touch with loved ones
The first few months are the hardest. During this period your child is likely to feel a strong sense of homesickness. It is therefore a good idea to keep in touch with family and friends who stayed behind.
Social media is a great way to connect with people around the world. Encourage him to send messages, photos and videos to loved ones. This will alleviate some of the loneliness at first and should help him adjust better.
Encourage new friendships
While talking often with those we left behind is beneficial, be careful that this does not prevent your child from forming new friendships in the host country.
Make sure they meet other children their own age as early as possible. School is the easiest way to bond, as they will be interacting with the same people every day.
Consider enrolling them in a secondary school for international students. This will expose them to diverse cultures and increase the chances of meeting people from their home country.
But it is also important for them to make friends outside of school. Encourage them to participate in extracurricular activities, such as art clubs or sports teams. This will not only broaden their social circle, but also encourage them to have fun and keep busy. Having something to look forward to each day will lessen feelings of sadness and homesickness.
It is true that children should be encouraged to adopt the customs of the place they have moved to, but there is no reason not to share some fun activities from their hometown. This will help them remember and appreciate their roots.
In addition, sharing your country’s traditions is a great way to make friends. Whether it’s celebrating a local holiday or cooking your child’s favourite native food, try inviting your neighbours over for a fun get-together.
Allow them to express their frustrations
No matter how effective parents are at preparing their children for life in another country, it is normal for them to experience occasional inner struggles. When children feel sad, irritated, confused or stressed, parents should serve as a sounding board for their feelings.
Adults can also share their own frustrations occasionally, but always in moderation. It is best to try to show an optimistic attitude most of the time to set an example for younger children.