How can you help your kids prepare for the relocation?
Moving is always quite a challenge, but moving to another country with kids? You just doubled your relocation "to do" list! Now it's not just about papers, logistics, house hunting and worrying about that infamous culture shock. Schooling, socialising, adapting - those are the issues that will keep your brain busy from now on.
We're in the middle of our fourth relocation with the kids and, I thought, I could share with you some ways of helping your kids to get ready for the relocation, which worked for us so far.
1. Time for Geography session!
Depending on your child's age, freshen up all he or she knows about geographic location of your new home-to-be. Our 5 year old loved browsing through the maps with me, learning interesting facts along the way. For example, she found it very cute that Czech Republic is so tiny on the map, while Russia is ennormous (she found that funny apparently).
You could also discuss your travel plans - how will you get to your new home? Which city would you fly from? How long will the flight take? How long would be the flights from your new home to, let's say, cities where your relatives or friends live? Is there a time difference? This discussion can be a lot of fun plus it will give your kid some basic points to place this new city and country in their system of coordinates.
2. Why is this new country interesting?
Round up some interesting and fun facts about the country you're relocating to. For example, our daughter was looking forward to moving to Russia, because of all the snow we promised her and she's excited about a move to UK, as (oh my God!) the REAL Queen lives there in a real palace! It's an amazing selling point for her.
Depending on your child's age, you can come up with a relevant trivia info for them. When I was 17, England held a great attraction for me due to the fact that it was a land of Conan Doyle and Jane Austen!
3. What great places can you visit?
Put together a bucket list of all the great places you'll be able to visit locally. Before moving to CZ, we already discussed with our daughter how we will visit Prague Zoo (which is in the top 10 of the best zoo's in the world) and drive to the local mountains. Right now, we're discussing visiting London's Aquarium, London Eye and (this is the most anticipated trip) driving to Scotland and visiting Loch Ness. She told us that she will bring some treats to throw into the lake, so Nessy will surely come up to see her.
4. Are there any movies, cartoons or books about the country you're moving to?
It could be fun for the kids to get the feeling of this new place by diving into some of the stories connected to it. We watched Czech cartoons about a mole (one of the most popular Czech characters), which is how my daughter learnt to say 'ahoi' even before we moved. Now our playlist includes Peppa Pig and Mr. Bean. Are your kids a little older? Maybe there're authors coming from the country you're moving to, who can be interesting for them? Books are great in conveying culture and athmosphere. Documentaries can also be great - getting a vivid picture about your destination's nature and wild life can be really exciting!
5. What's your new home town like?
Is there anything interesting about it? Is it old? What kind of historic moments happened there that your kids might be interested in? Is it very new and modern? How fast did it grow? We lived in Shanghai - it grew incredibly within the last 20-30 years and it is very ineresting to see photos, showing how the city changed.
How big is the city? Is it international or very traditional? Would you have to commute a lot or is it possible to walk accross it? Give your kids some facts to have a clearer picture in their mind!
6. What kind of house will you live in?
If it's a house, discuss what kinds of picnics and garden parties you will be able to set up! Is it an apartment in a high rise building? Talk about the views! We lived on the 32nd floor in Shanghai and will be living in a semi-detached house in UK, pretty different experiences, why not to talk about them? The move will not be so much like a step into the unknown, if you help to fill in the gaps before hand.
7. Be excited about it!
You, the parents, so much depends on your attitude! If you come across as worried and unsure, no matter how much you say otherwise, your kids will feel it. As long as you're positive and excited about the move, your children will join you and will look forward to it! Of course, there will be difficulties along the way, but you, as a family, will be able to solve them, together.
Hope, these tips will help you with your move, whereever it will be! Stay tuned - I will be posting more on the relocation with kids shortly!
Yuliya, author of Expat Kids blog on Easy Expat, is also the author of TinyExpats.com, writing about expat life and travels of their nomadic family, sharing their journey with two tiny expats.