Monday, 25 July 2016

10 tips to help you prepare your child for an international move

Recently I read a post on Facebook. A mother was asking advice on how to prepare her daughter for a n upcoming move from England to the Netherlands. Her daughter is 5 years old and she had said to her mum "Please mum I don't want to leave my home and my school". I am sure her child is not the only one that does not want to move.

The question made me think. What would my advice be? As a child I moved many times in Africa, I
photo by Kelly Morguefiles
wonder how my parents prepared us, there were four of us, I have two brothers and a sister. These days there are so many more resources, we have books, the internet, social media to seek advice. I do think this is a great question because I firmly believe parents can help and prepare their children for an international move.

My 10 tips would be:
  1. Acknowledge your child's emotions. Give her permission to feel sad about the move and about saying goodbye. Give her permission to identify and express her emotions. You can help her by saying "I see that you are sad about leaving your friends". If you want to read more on this topic the Centre on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning have practical suggestions here in this download Teaching Your Child To: Identify and Express Emotions.
  2. Watch the Disney movie "Inside Out" together. The girl named Riley makes a move too and finds it tough. Watch it together and take time to talk about it. The movie is all about emotions.
  3. Make the move an adventure. When the moving boxes arrive let her paint one or decorate it by using stickers, glue, paint, and pretty pictures. She can even decorate the box with a friend (you then include her friends in the process, so they can get used to the idea that she will move).
  4. As part of the adventure search for information about the city and country you will move to. Show photos or a youtube film. If possible make a preliminary visit to the new country. Be careful not to raise the expectations too high.
  5. Let her help pack the boxes. Let her help you sort out which toys she will take along. Let her put her most important toys in the decorated moving box. By letting her make choices you give her some control in a time that many things are "out of her control". You are giving her some influence in this situation.
  6. Maintain stability. In the crazy time before, during and after the move try to stick to family routines. For a child this means that even though many things are changing there are still constants in her life and that can give a child stability and a sense of security.
  7. Make a countdown calendar together to help vizualize how many nights until the move. Suggestions for a creative and fun countdown calendar can be found here. The concept of time, and knowing when the move will take place can be difficult for children. A countdown calendar can help your child understand how many "sleeps" until the move.
  8. Help your child say her good-byes. David Pollock and Ruth van Reken talk about it in their book "Third Culture Kids, Growing up Among Worlds". They mention the need for saying good-bye to people, places, pets and possessions. Plan a farewell party for her friends, make the invitations together. Visit special places as a family. Ask her what she would like to do one last last time. Eat and ice cream in the favourite ice cream parlour or swim in a certain swimming pool. Make photos of these last visits. If there is a pet will the pet come along or will someone care for the pet? Maybe possessions will be let behind. Help her accept that some possessions will remain behind, maybe you will give some things to other people, involve your daughter in the process. You could give her a small treasure box in which she can put special treasures, it could be a small stone from you garden or something else special.
  9. Consider buying her a copy of the book My Moving Booklet by Valerie Besanceney. The booklet has been designed to help children through the initial stages of an upcoming move.
  10. Make a small photo album specially for her with photos of the friends she will leave behind, of the farewell party, of the special places, of house you lived in and lots more. This photo book can be a tool she can use to show and tell others where she used to live.
If you don't have enough time to make a calendar, make invitations for a farewell party, make the photo album then get other people involved in your move. Your friends probably want to help you, try to delegate something. Ask another mum to help you, she will probably feel privileged!\

There are many more things parents do to help their kids, I would love to hear your suggestions. Please share them here. Thank you so much.

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