So here you are, moving your family to a new country, an unfamiliar culture – maybe a different language, too – and leaving your comfort zone well and truly behind. It’s exciting – a chance for a new lifestyle and thrilling experiences – but it’s also a stressful time that can induce fear and insecurity about an unknown future.
As a parent, you’re concerned about your children’s reactions to such a move; you may feel guilty about uprooting them and moving them away from familiar routines, friends and relatives. Perhaps you’re worried about disturbing their educational progress. Maybe you fear that your youngsters will resent the changes you’ve thrust upon them. Fear not. There is strong evidence to suggest that internationally-educated children are often more confident and mature than their stay-at-home peers. It’s vital, therefore, to do your homework, and to find the school that best suits your child’s needs and personality. Most schools have comprehensive websites and staff will be happy to answer any specific queries you may have.
If possible, time your move to fit in with school term dates and important exam years, to help your child to integrate quickly and comfortably into his new school. Ask for a tour of the school before term starts if you arrive during the holidays.
You can become involved in school life too, but don’t crowd your kids. Take your cues from them in order to maintain harmonious relationships! Initiate and maintain good communication with teachers, who can alert you to any potential problems – and who will applaud your child’s successes too.
Ensure that your children have a healthy work-life balance – and remember that their priorities may be different to yours, at least in the short-term. You may be focusing on grades and report cards while your child is concentrating his efforts on fitting in and making friends.
The transition to a new home, school or country is easier for younger children, who are more naturally adaptable than teenagers. However, there are steps you can take to make the move as smooth as possible for all of them.
Involve your children in the moving process. Share books, brochures and websites with them that tell them about their new home. Expat forums can help you to get in touch with other families already in-country, and can answer specific questions about the place you’re moving to – but do remember, they are other people’s opinions, not necessarily your reality! Communication is all-important, so share your feelings truthfully. Ask your kids how they’re feeling, listen to their victories and concerns, praise their efforts and reassure them. Help your children to seek out new activities to participate in and find clubs or classes where they can pursue old ones. Ensure that your children have time to spend with new friends. Make them welcome in your home, but give them space for friendships to develop naturally.
Make room in your suitcases for items that will make your new house feel more like home until your shipping arrives, and ask for your child’s input when choosing décor or furnishings for his room. A photo album with pictures from home can be very comforting during the settling-in period.
Set up an internet telephone program such as Skype to talk to friends and relatives at home. Make time to talk as a family everyday, discussing your new experiences and remembering old ways of life.
Openness and honesty with your kids will overcome almost any problem that you face following relocation, and in time, you’ll find that your family ties are even stronger than before. So relax and enjoy your wonderful new home – selamat datang to you and your family!
Giles and Ginnie Montier – Tenby
International School, Penang