Moving abroad is a tough decision – even harder when you have little ones to worry about. Whether your children are still in diapers or ready to enter the big, scary world of being grownup – the decision will be equally tough, and you’ll always worry about them.
Truth be told, though, emigrating for the sake of one’s children is actually one of the greatest motivators for shipping out, especially for South Africa. The prevalence of crime, educational drawbacks and fear simply gets enough at some stage, and it drives people to uproot and build new lives elsewhere. So if this is you, and you’re bracing for this tremendous life change, you’re probably wondering what you need to do to help your children cope with this move.
Well, we have a few pointers which can help you through this difficult phase.
7 tips for helping your children cope with relocation
1. Be honest
Many parents withhold the truth from their children as a means of cushioning them from the blow. They try to keep the truth of the move from their kids as long as possible so they don’t need to suffer through the months which lead up to the big move. But although you can save your child a lot of interim anxiety, the worst thing you can do for your relationship in the long run is being dishonest.
Your children need to know they can count on you and that they can trust you to be forthcoming. Moving to a new home severs many ties and lifelines your children have known throughout their lives – they will not necessarily have someone else to turn to in time of need – so make sure that they know they can rely on those people who are moving them halfway across the world. Let them know they can trust you to be honest with them and help them through whichever trials they may face in their lives.
2. Make it an educational experience
One of the best ways to get children excited and involved in the move is by taking them through an educational experience. Help them research the new country, it’s history and heritage. See what plants, animals, natural wonders and climate can be found there. See what stores can be found in the area you will move to and what the schools look like. Take a trip on Google Earth through the new streets which you will soon call home. Teach your children the street names, the mall names, the names of the cereals and crisps they will eat when you arrive in your new home.
Print out pictures of the neighbourhoods, animals, trees and shops in your new country. Make quizzes about celebrities, music, art and other interesting inventions hailing from their new home. Teach them who the sports heroes are, and if they don’t know the rules of the most popular sports of their new home – then its best you prepare them by learning the rules together. This familiarity will make it easier for them to cope with the move and will also make it easier for them to settle down in their new home.
3. Learn the lingo
Make sure to read up and listen to the vernaculars which you will experience in your new home. You may find vlogs, songs or sitcoms which accurately depict the accent or language of the people you will meet. If you are moving to a country where people don’t speak English, or your home language, take the time to download or purchase songs with the native languages. Download apps or buy books, ebooks or CDs which will assist you and your family with basic language skills and phrasing. If you’re moving to a country where English is still the primary language, make sure to acquaint your children with regional dialects and phrases which may differ to the words they are currently using.
4. The communication plan
This may sound incredibly farfetched, but start working on a communication plan which your children can adhere to when you’ve moved abroad. You simply may not have the time and energy to do all the admin in the first few months once you’ve moved abroad, so tackle that beast while you still can. Your communication plan can include weekly or monthly calendars with times and dates where your kids are to perform certain duties. This could include writing letters, mailing letters, making the family back home an artwork to mail, having Skype calls, phone calls or facetime.
On your calendar, make notes of a photo session once every three, six or twelve months – with images you can send back home or upload to a wiki. If your kids are tech savvy you can use all this information to send weekly or monthly emailers to the entire family through a free and easy mail builder like Mailchimp. Calculate the time differences and incorporate those calculations into your communication plan. Tell your children about this, and get them involved – once you’re abroad the schedule will provide some structure which will make them feel secure, and chatting with their family will give them the much-needed boost to keep them going.
5. Include them in decision-making
Try to include your children in as much of the decision-making process as possible. This may not always be easy – as you will essentially need to weigh up the pros and cons and make decisions which are beneficial to the entire family. But if there is a choice between homes, schools, or suburbs and you’ve already weighed up the pros and cons – draw your children into the decision and let them know that this is not just your move, but theirs as well. Help them pick out new drapes or choose decorations for the rooms which they will live in soon.
Let them play around on Autodesk Homestyler with decorating ideas, collect ideas from Pinterest and Instagram and try the Color911, iHandy Carpenter, Cataluv and Artfully Walls apps. This will keep them busy and ensure that they stay immersed and engaged in this experience. You may even get them to start choosing small home decor items from shops which will eventually be able to deliver to your new home.
6. Help them with their grieving
No matter how much you try to make this a fun experience, your family will go through a traumatic experience and you’re bound to face all the different stages of grief – whether or not you want to. In fact, as you prepare to take off, your children will find that some of their friends preempt ‘breakup’ by retreating from the relationship. Family members will be angry. Neighbours will be leery. And everyone will grieve.
The stages of grief include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. What you need to be particularly cognisant of, is the fact that your family members will not all pass through these stages at the same time. You may therefore sit with quite a colourful bunch of grievers – some who want to become better people and change the world (bargaining), some of whom have outbursts of aggression if their plans don’t work out (anger) and others who seem to be caught in a doom and gloom which you simply can’t handle.
Why not make a printout of the stages of grief – put it in your diary or on your bathroom wall so you are aware of the emotions your children are feeling and also aware that these are phases which you will need to help them through. For some people grieving lasts a week, for others it can last years. Explain your children’s emotions to them – discuss how they feel and encourage them to write their thoughts down in a private journal or blog where they can get it out.
7. Incentivise the journey
One way to get your children to engage is by incentivising them for reaching certain milestones – even if these are simply emotional milestones. Set some money aside to spoil them while you prepare – for helping you pack, for taking care of their siblings, for acting maturely. Celebrate small victories like getting your visas, finally shipping your belongings, choosing a school, arriving in your new home and simply surviving that first week, month or year. Indeed, you should not incentivise to the point of spoiling your children, but a bit of encouragement is not uncalled for.
In doing so you are not only making the journey easier, but you are teaching your child to take care of him or herself and to celebrate the small things. We often just tell each other to push through and move on, not realising that it’s necessary at times to sit back, reflect and take a breather as we prepare for the next milestone. Be sure to add some incentives for your husband and yourself as well.
These are just a few ways you can prepare your children for the journey ahead. We hope that you and your children will find a new home filled with wonder, security and opportunity.
Good luck with your new life abroad and remember if you need any financial emigration advise simply fill in the form below and one of our financial consultants will give you a call.[contact-form-7 id=”6581″ title=”Blog post (call me)”]