The needs and concerns of children faced with relocating vary greatly depending on their age and the destination of the move. With older children and teenagers psychological and emotional needs are the priority, whereas babies and toddlers have more basic requirements such as physical comfort during the transition. Young children will generally feel safe and comforted as long as they are in the presence of their parents, however a major worry for them is being left behind. It is therefore important that no matter what age your child, you communicate with them effectively, the move must not come as a surprise and you should introduce the subject as early as possible.
As a parent your role is to encourage communication, providing comfort and emotional support. Your children may experience a whole range of emotions including; anger, sadness, relief and excitement. You will need to help them through this emotional battlefield and allow them to express their fears and concerns openly. It can be beneficial to hold regular family meetings where you all discuss your feelings, questions and worries. Once a child feels respected and listened to they become more open to discussing the positive aspects of the move.
General hints for making the transition:
- Encourage children to learn about the new country in advance (this will assist your knowledge at the same time).
- Provide children of all ages with a special address book and stationary for keeping up with old friends.
- Email provides a cheap method of maintaining daily contact with friends.
- Take video and photos of the new home and area if your children won’t get to see it before the move.
- Arrange to visit new schools and meet teachers before the actual first day of school.
- Explore your new area with the whole family as soon as possible.
A major factor in ensuring a smooth transition for the whole family will be the initial reactions of each child. When you introduce the subject of moving you should be as informative as possible and explain why you feel the move will be of benefit to the entire family, not just the working parent. With younger children it is best to keep things light hearted and fun, they will want to know things like how their toys and furniture will be transported from one place to the other. Acting out the process with these toys helps them to relate to what will be happening, books and games are another good way to help your children express their feelings and concerns. If your child has special needs it is important that they understand any variations in how their needs will be addressed.
- Provide the needed reassurance, stability and security.
- Show them the destination on a map; this helps them become familiar with where they are going.
- Books and games are a useful tool for explaining the move process. Allied has produced a free children’s book called ‘Moving Overseas’ aimed at young children’ to help parents address factual questions and feelings related to relocation.
- Give them things they can do to feel involved, such as sorting through belongings for outgrown toys and clothes and putting items into boxes.
- Help them feel involved on move day by allowing them to pack their flight bag, selecting the books, toys and snacks they would like to take.
- Check out our Carton Capers Fun section!
Teenagers will face more complex issues about moving. During adolescence teenagers are seeking validation and approval, this is often achieved within friendship groups. Leaving these friends, changing schools, giving up coveted sports positions and various hard earned opportunities will seem a daunting prospect. Although they will understand the idea of belonging somewhere other than where they are presently living, they may not have the skills to accept the idea of moving easily. They may have concerns about their capability to adjust to a new culture; fear of the unknown may leave them feeling insecure, unconfident and experience anxiety.
- Be respectful of their emotional needs.
- Be clear about the benefits to the whole family.
- Speak concisely and clearly. Keep tabs on your voice levels and body language so as to avoid projecting a negative impression.
- Anticipate some of the concerns that may arise and have responses prepared.
- Encourage open communication and honesty.
- Encourage them to keep a diary; this is a non-confrontational way for them to work through their concerns.
- Subscribe to magazines or hometown newspapers that have youth contact.
- Suggest exchange visits with friends.