How to Move Abroad with Your Kids
By Allison Bisbey Colter
Once you break the news to your children about your international move, there are a couple of things you can do to help ease the transition.
The first is to empower your children to be involved in as many decisions about the move as possible. Assign them special jobs like packing up their boxes or meeting international movers with you. In most cases, children have little to no say in the moving decision, and this can leave them feeling powerless.
"It can be overwhelming," said Lori Collins Burgan, the author of Moving With Kids: 25 Ways to Ease Your Family's Transition to a New Home.
For toddlers and to some extent preschoolers, their sense of self revolves around their parents. As long as their parents are supportive and the daily schedule remains the same, the time leading up moving day doesn't require a big adjustment. But it is important to help children understand that all of their belongings are going along with them overseas. Set aside some special toys that will stay with a younger child while the rest of the house is being packed up.
For preteens, something as simple as allowing them to choose whether they want to tell their teachers about the move themselves or have a parent do it, is empowering.
You can also involve preteens and older children in bigger decisions, such as the type of neighborhood and house they would like to live in. Talk to them about their likes and dislikes and together you will make your international move a successful one.
Collins Burgan said that the last time her family moved, when her oldest was in seventh grade, she and her husband narrowed their housing choices down to four and let the children pick. "My husband and I preferred a different house, but the neighborhood had more stuff for kids to do," she said.
Fortunately, all three children liked the same house.
Collins Burgan also advises parents to involve older children in the decision about the timing of your international move. For example, they may want to finish the school year at their old school. Some families even make arrangements for older teens to stay behind with a friend or relative until they finish high school.
For children of all ages, it's important to recognize that they need time to grieve. Sure, they can still call and text old friends after them move, but it won't be the same as living next door to their pals.
"You have to ... put yourself in their shoes, not to minimize their feelings," adds Leslie Levine, author of Will This Place Ever Feel Like Home?
"You might think they don't have big sweeping feelings, since they don't have any responsibility for planning the move abroad. But in their world, it's huge," Levine says. Collins Burgan also emphasized the importance of having some kind of goodbye party, even if you're moving quickly and there isn't much time to plan anything too formal. "I equate the goodbye party to a funeral service ... it brings closure to all those relationships so they're ready to move on," she said.
Even the smallest children need to say goodbye before your international move. If they have a favorite park, take them there and say "It's the last time here." Likewise, when you leave to go to your new home, drive by your old house one more time so they can wave goodbye.