When you move abroad you will experience an array of feelings: excitement, apprehension, confusion, frustration, loneliness, and homesickness. Your kids aren’t excluded from experiencing any of these feelings. Following are a few things to do to help children adjust to a new culture.
WHAT TO DO BEFORE MOVING ABROAD WITH YOUR CHILDREN
Start learning about the culture.
A fun place to start is learning about the country’s cuisine. If you’re moving from a Western country to an Asian one like South Korea where the food is different (e.g. spicy, fermented, pickled, alive, and strange eats), then you will want to familiarize yourself with the local food. So look for authentic restaurants to dine at as a family. Next, if you will be immersed in a different language, then start learning common expressions. And don’t forget to teach your children how to greet local kids and introduce themselves in the language. It will help them to break ice and make new friends.
Set and share intentions for the move abroad.
Don’t exclude your children and resolve to think that they don’t need to know important details. Share your motivations for moving abroad with them and why the move is important for the family. This is especially important if you have children who are older and who may not like the idea of leaving their friends, school, and life as they knew it behind. Listen to them and be patient if they aren’t on board. As their parents, we are obligated to help them prepare for the move. We can motivate them by getting them involved in learning about the country and figuring out what they’d like to experience once there.
WHAT TO DO AFTER YOU MOVE ABROAD WITH CHILDREN
Maintain your daily rituals and other routines with your kids.
Moving to another country already comes with a lot of adjustments. One thing you can do is keep your routines. For example, if you take strolls after dinner with your family, then continue to do so when abroad. My children enjoy pancakes, so I have a tradition of making them on weekends, usually Saturday mornings. And what about Friday nights are for pizza, as well as, Sunday dinners. Keep these traditions up when living abroad. It will help your children to have a sense of balance when at home. The same is true for any morning and bedtime rituals you do with your children.
Create opportunities for your children to make new friends.
This is where the power of the Internet and social media comes in hand. You can use these technologies to not only find information about the country and stay connected to family and friends back home. But, you can network and start making connections with other expat families before moving abroad. Then, once you’re there you can arrange meet and greets. You can also search for established play-groups that host weekly playdates and join them. The only way for you and your children to make friends is to get out and socialize. The sooner the better.
Stay connected with each child and deepen your bond.
Make sure each child is getting quality time with you. When living abroad with your family, it is easy to always do everything together. It is what feels safe and comfortable in the unknown. However, each child may be dealing with different categories of adjustment. You can have one who quickly adjusted and is thriving. Another may feel lonely and homesick. Or, one is having a difficult time with the language and is experiencing a lot of frustrations. To check in and stay abreast, set dates with each child around their interests for just the two of you. You will deepen your bond with each child and figure out how you can better help them adjust.