Organising an international house move is a mammoth task. But when there are children involved, the process can become slightly more complicated. If you're about to move with your family and are worried about the effects all the sudden changes will have on your children, then here are 13 top tips for moving internationally with children...
However far you're going, there's no doubt that moving house is an unsettling experience for children. They have probably grown attached to their familiar surroundings and may be nervous or worried (or hopefully excited!) about moving to a new house and all this changing. So, before you go:
1. Tell them about moving house as soon as possible: One of the best tips for moving internationally with children is to give them give them plenty of time to think about the move and prepare. Be ready for the questions that will inevitably follow. Tell them exactly where you're moving to, when you're moving and why. Encourage them to talk about the move and ask questions, and try to be as positive as possible about how the change affects them in your answers. If you don’t know the answers yet then tell them it’s a great question and you’re going to find out, then make sure you go back to them.
2. Tell them about the benefits of the move, the new opportunities and exciting aspects: Are they going to a new school? Will there be new activities they can get involved in? Are there local sports teams etc they might be interested in? These are all positive things to look forward to that your children can start to build up an excitement for - especially if their new school or community offers activities they have never tried before.
3. Get visual: Show your children some pictures of the place you are moving to, the new house if you have them or maybe some maps etc so they can picture how things are going to be. Look at the route you’ll take and how you'll get there, and maybe even show them some pictures of the neighbourhood online so they can really visualise things.
4. Be positive about the move: Even if the circumstances surrounding your move aren’t particularly positive, make sure you try to keep stressful discussions about the move away from little ears; if they are particularly nervous or anxious then this might make them feel more scared. Try to focus only on the positives - things like all the new opportunities and exciting things the move will bring to them and your family.
5. Get the kids involved in planning the relocation: If you are buying new furniture or choosing paint or soft furnishings for your new house then ask their opinion. Let them do some research into their new area - for example local clubs and teams, places to visit, what their school is like, etc. If they can use the internet then help them to browse online and ask them to find out about things like what the weather in your new country will be like and the new foods and languages they will be experiencing so that they feel like they are helping you to find out at the same time they are.
6. Plan to keep in touch: Get older kids to make an address book with all the contact details of the friends they want to stay in touch with. Gather any email addresses of other parents you normally see at school or their old teachers so that you can send and receive pictures to keep up to date.
7. Get in touch in advance: Pen pals are a great way to build your child's interest in their new home – is it possible to write to your child’s new school and ask whether they can arrange something like this? Maybe your child can write to his/her class or a few classmates in advance so that they know they have some new friends waiting when they get there, which will make the prospect of their first day at new school less scary! Or perhaps, if you're part of a corporate relocation, you might already know of some other families out in your new country that your children can write to for advice?
8. Saying goodbye: Why not let the kids have a few friends and family members over for a going away party to say goodbye? This will be one of the hardest parts of moving internationally with children, so try and make it as fun and light hearted as you possibly can. Maybe decorate the house in the theme of the new country or get some of the local delicacies for people to try if you can - this way the children will be less focused on the sadness of saying goodbye and more enthused about 'showing off' their new lifestyle.
9. Pack an essentials case: It's likely that due to the nature of your move, you'll arrive in your new destination before the majority of your belongings. Therefore, it's important to make what you travel with count more than usual. You'll be able to replace the majority of things you'll automatically want to pack once you get to your new destination, so don't waste valuable space on things like toiletries and towels when you could be packing things you really need. Make sure children have enough to keep them entertained on the flight (especially if it's long haul), as well as having all the essentials and a few favourite toys for the first couple of weeks in your new house.
Post Move – At your new home
10. Have a welcome party: invite the neighbours and have them bring their kids. Organise some games to help the kids get to know each other and break the ice. Not only does it encourage them to get settled but it also helps you to meet the neighbours and make new friends too!
11. Get unpacked, settled and into your new routine as quickly as possible: A sense of routine - no matter how different it is from your old one - is vital for helping all members of the family settle in quickly. Unpack what you have as soon as you arrive in order to fill the house with familiar items and make it feel like home, and establish some sort of order for the next few days - whether it be cleaning, decorating, shopping for groceries or even just taking a walk around your new neighbourhood - to help everyone get their bearings.
12. Help your kids make new friends: Try and get involved in the local community and school events as soon as you can to help support your child's transition from their old life to new - but don’t forget they’ll probably still be missing their old friends so help and encourage them to write an email or letter to keep in touch. Skype is great too for video calling and it’s free to use via the internet.
13. Let your kids set up or help plan their new room: Where feasible, let them help with choosing things for their new room or even get them involved in the decorating. The quicker they feel comfortable in their new surroundings, the better.
If you're moving internationally with children that are slightly older and are worried about how they're coping with the prospect of moving, then why not get them to read our moving guide? Written especially for them, this has some good tips and advice on making the process as stress free as possible.
For more information and advice on moving internationally, please visit our International Removals page, where you'll find everything you need to know about moving overseas.