Sophia Patsikas is a writer for Movehub, a leading resource for helping people move abroad. Sophia writes about adapting to new cultures, travel trends and expat life. Here she shares her top tips on moving abroad with children. Thank you, Sophia!
Moving abroad is an exciting change but can be extremely stressful, especially with young children. Starting a new school, separating from friends and assimilating to a completely different culture can be overwhelming. At Movehub, we help hundreds of families relocate overseas every year so we wanted to find out what parents can do to make the adjustment that little bit easier.
Our team consulted with four leading child psychologists to create Min’s Move, an illustrated children’s storybook that follows the experiences of Min as she prepares to relocate from the UK to Hong Kong because of a new career opportunity for her mother. We have compiled our most useful tips to ensure that your move is successful and stress-free.
Sorting with stickers
One of the hardest things about moving for both adults and children is deciding which things to take with you and which things to leave behind. Encouraging your children to play an active part in this decision will really improve their understanding of the moving process and will ensure that they have time to come to terms with the magnitude of this change.
Dr. Shimi Kang maintains that giving your children tasks to help with the move will make them feel more in control of the process and sorting their things with stickers is a great way to do this. Lay out your children’s belongings and explain to them that they have five gold star stickers for their favourite things and different coloured stickers for other sorting categories such as fragile items and soft items. Engaging them in the move with fun tasks such as this is the best way to prepare them for this life changing time.
Gifts and goodbyes
Your children may find it painful to say goodbye to the friends they have made and the belongings they have to leave behind, but to soften the blow consider gifting some of their less loved belongings to close friends. This way your child is leaving the friend something to remember them by and will be comforted by the knowledge that their things are going to a good home.
Dr. Hani Talebi suggests that giving children two or three opportunities to say goodbye to their best friends gives a more organic sense of closure and gives the children time to say, do and feel exactly what they need, saving the gift for the last meeting will ensure that your child is aware and prepared for the final farewell.
It can be very difficult to motivate children to tidy a few things away before bedtime let alone pack away their belongings for shipment abroad. So, once you have decided which of their possessions you are keeping you can make them part of packing races. This will inject some fun into the process and save you lots of time.
Set up a pile of the things that need to be packed and explain which box they need to be placed in, set a timer for twenty seconds and see how many items your child can pack before the timer runs out. Try this with a friend or sibling for added competition, or with their favourite upbeat music. Praise your child for their good effort and they will start to see that moving can be fun and that their help is recognised and appreciated.
Encouraging your child to document their moving experience will really help them to come to terms with their life change. Let them write about their feelings and take photos or draw pictures of their old house, toys and friends. Dr. Lori Woodrig recommends that you spend time learning about your destination with your child and document your findings in the scrap book.
Find a map of your new area and create a list of places you will explore together, this will reassure your child of the fun you will have in your new location and encourage their adventurous spirit. Dr. Anandhi Narasimha suggests that transitional objects such as this, which are going through the moving journey with your child, can really help to make your child feel informed, happy and safe.
Keep your stress levels to a minimum!
With these tips you can be confident that you have made moving as comfortable as possible for your children. Ensuring you have enough time to concentrate on the logistical aspects of the move is key to keeping stress levels low.
Processing legal documents can take longer than anticipated which could unexpectedly push back your leaving date. Be sure to double check deadline dates and set yourself several reminders to ensure that you submit important paperwork on time. Properly researching the best shipping companies to transport your belongings can help you make considerable savings and this is something many parents overlook until the very last minute. This means more money to spend on fun activities for the family that will help you settle in quickly and enjoy the rest of your new adventure.