Moving away from your home town is a massive step for anyone, even more so for children. If, like us, you decide to move to another country rather than just to a new town it throws a whole loads of other challenges into the mix.
When we first told Little H that we were going to move to Spain she was not impressed. She was naturally upset about leaving her friends, family and school – at one point she even told us that we would be ruining her life!
Fast forward 8 months and she tells us that moving to Spain was the best thing ever. She still misses friends and family of course, but says she loves living here and doesn’t want to go back to England. It’s definitely made our lives less stressful after such a life changing decision for the whole family.
A lot of her feelings about her new life is down to the weather, new friends, a great school, and no doubt a bigger bedroom to name just a few factors. However, I like to think that our planning also helped Little H to cope with moving to far away.
If you’re planning a big move, here are some tips from us on how to help kids cope with moving to another country…
Tell them early on
Whilst you might not want to worry them until your plans are more solid, it’s definitely a good idea to give them plenty of notice. This gives them the chance to get used to the idea and ask questions. Of course, if your child’s a natural worrier you may want to limit the amount of time they have to think things over. You’ll know as a parent what they can cope with and can choose accordingly. I do recommend though talking it through with them so they know you haven’t just made the decision without consulting them.
Involve in the plans
It can help to involve children in as much of the planning as is possible. Talk about which areas you’re interested in, when you plan to go, how you’ll get there, what you can do when you move. This way they feel as though they’re a part of the decision and you might be able to include some of their concerns in your planning.
Visit the new school
Starting a new school is always scary and kids don’t know what to expect. If you’re going to be putting them into a school where English isn’t the first language it can be terrifying! If possible, take a trip to visit their new school before you move over permanently. We had a few days in Spain the month before moving over and managed to pop into the school to meet with the teachers and have a look around. Once Little H had seen the building, classrooms and been shown around by another student she felt much more relaxed about it. They might even find some things on the visit that makes them excited about starting at the new school – in our case it was a play park, chickens in the playground, and seeing the kids not having to wear uniform!
Let them ‘choose’ a house
If you have more than one possible house to choose from, let your kids take a look either in person if you can visit or by scrolling through photos on Rightmove or whichever property site is popular in your new country. Find out which ones they like best and why. Chances are you can persuade them to choose your favourite by letting them know all the great things about it.
Pick things for their new bedroom
Before we moved over we let Little H choose her new bed (she had always wanted bunkbeds) and a desk for her new bedroom. As soon as we arrived we went out to by bedding, cushions and posters all of which she chose herself. It definitely helped her to get excited about the new house and have a better bedroom than she’d left behind.
Making sure kids know when you’ll be able to head back to see family and friends or when they’ll be coming to visit can really help kids to deal with the move. Within the first few months of moving to Spain we had visits from parents, grandparents and friends which showed Little H that it wasn’t a case of never seeing loved ones again.
Speak to friends and family via WhatsApp video calls
Video calls are great to help kids cope with moving to another country, it really helped Little H to be able to ‘see’ friends and family via WhatsApp video calls when we first moved over. Even though it’s not the same as seeing them in person it does help if they’re feeling homesick. We still have video calls now but not quite as often as in the first couple of months but it’s nice to be able to just pick up the phone whenever Little H (and us!) are missing anyone.
Keep them busy
As we moved to Spain at the end of May the weather was fantastic and there was no school until September. This gave us chance to get out and explore our new area and enjoy the sun. Between that and having access to our own swimming pool Little H didn’t really get much time to get homesick. If you can’t get out and about because of the weather, school, or work you can still keep kids occupied with activities or helping with jobs around your new house.
Help them make new friends
Leaving your friends behind is a massive thing to a child and starting over in a new country with no friends is a big deal. As we had a few months before starting school we made sure to sign Little H up for dance classes in our village where we’d been advised that most of the girls were from her new school. We also spent time at the local outdoor pool where all the village kids spend their summer holidays. I have more tips on helping kids make friends when you move here.
If you take your time to plan and think about what your child might worry about, you can definitely make a big move easier and help kids cope with moving to another country. If you’ve moved abroad and have any other tips feel free to leave them in the comments below!