I’ve originally written this article for BabyCentre.co.uk.
Our family has quite a history of moving around with children – our older daughter was born in Germany. When she was five we moved to China. Then came Moscow (where our younger daughter was born) and, finally the Czech Republic, where we live right now.
Relocation can be daunting for any adult, let alone for small kids, so here are some tips for the parents to help young kids find this experience enjoyable instead of stressful:
1. Get them interested. Tell your child of all the interesting things about your new country: places you could visit, traditions you could participate in, new food you could try. If the climate is different, discuss how fascinating it would be to experience such weather conditions. Show photos of local animals and landscape. Look at the map – where is this country in comparison to where you are at right now? Talk about the language, learn a couple of funny and useful words. Are there any fairytales or cartoons set in that country? By the time you move, you child would actually want to go there to get the first-hand experience with all you discussed.
2. Pack the favourites. Even though you might be using container shipment for most of the belongings, make sure you pack your kid’s most favourite toys in the suitcase – you will be happy you did! Of course, it is possible to buy new toys there, but it’s those old favourites that would give comfort to your child during the initial days of adjustment.
3. Bring a piece of home with you. Take your child’s bed linen, towels, a favourite blanket or a pillow – anything that would make him feel more at home straight away.
4. Medical care. First of all, don’t forget to take all your usual medicine with you – you might not be able to find some of it in the new place and it would take some time to find alternatives. I would also recommend doing research on your new paediatrician or a local hospital. Relocation is always a demanding experience for a small child and, if he or she would get sick upon arrival, you wouldn’t have to panic not knowing where to get help.
5. Think of socialisation. While older children would find new friends in a new school, younger ones would like to find someone to play with as well. You could research local expat websites and forums to find playgroups, sometimes even in your native language. Otherwise, it’s often possible to contact other expat families with kids to arrange play dates. As soon as your children find friends in their new home town, it gets much easier for them to settle in.
6. The most important thing to remember is that the child is happy, when his parents are. If you complain about hardships of arranging a relocation, negative facts about your new home country or people, your kid will pick up on that and will not be able to appreciate the benefits of the experience. Look at moving as a fascinating adventure and you will see that your tiny expats are happy to join you on this journey!
Are there any other tips you might add to this list?