Preparing your children to be expats

moving boxes

Moving house is stressful, moving country can be doubly so – especially when kids are involved. Start introducing aspects of your future home’s culture before you begin boxing up your belongings and remind your child or children that your family is in this adventure together -demonstrating this by involving them in big decisions and prep work will drive the notion home.

Here are some tips to help with the transition.

Learn about the country together

Learning about cultural differences can help your children to embrace them once you have made the move. Cookbooks, children’s encyclopedias, DVDs and fairy tales or traditional stories are great resources to get the whole family learning together. Let them help you cook a popular dish from the new country and make it fun a fun experience – it doesn’t have to turn out perfectly.  Read a fairy tale or watch a documentary together and discuss aspects that differ from your home country. Honesty is important – discuss dangers as well, and how to avoid them.

Learning the language will help to boost your child’s confidence in meeting local children. If a language course is out of the question try a computer program like Rosetta Stone – and make time to study together. There are numerous  free websites that host language learning games – Digital Dialects is a great option – challenge your kiddos and keep a running top score. Prizes are a fun idea, too.

 Visit the country together:

If possible, a vacation to the new country is a great way to prepare kids for life ahead. Take your child to the prospective city and show them around. Arrange a school visit – ask if a fellow student can give your child a tour – take him to see the city’s highlights and perhaps visit a potential home or a walk around your future neighborhood. This takes away some of the mystery (read: fear) and may help them feel more secure about their future home.

Make leaving a celebration:

Host a farewell party – this will give your child closure and a chance to make some final memories with his friends. Try to incorporate the new country into the party through food or decorations and have your child explain the significance to guests. Your child’s attachment to friends and life at home will vary with age. Display an address book and make it clear that the guests should add their contact information to stay in touch.

Give them support:

You child will need a lot of support leading up the move. It is important to be there to honestly answer questions and let him know your family is in this as a unit. Once the move has been made, he will need even more support. Listen to his concerns and help problem solve – he needs to know you value his feelings. Keep up ties with family and friends at home through Skype, email or video chat; they can be another great source of support for your child. And for you.

Good luck!

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