Moving from A to B is a big happening. Even if that move takes place in the same city. Only a few kilometers can make a huge difference. I know! As a child, we’ve moved a lot. And from one side of town to the other, it still meant I would hardly see my friends again. Which of course was sad.
At this moment, I’m not talking about a move from just a few kilometers. I’m talking about a gigantic move. Even for a parent. What kind of impact would it have for a child. Not only will they have to say goodbye to their friends and family, their neighbourhood, their school (if they go to school, which in our case they don’t) but also to the language they are familiar with, which will be different in the new country.
However, knowing what I already knew from my own experience I try to prepare my children the best way I can. Only time will tell if I have succeeded.
How to tell your children
As long as our children can remember, we have talked about this big move. So in our case, they have always known. They are even raised bilingual. They have known we will be traveling by airplane and all our personal belongings will follow by boat. But what if this was not the case? What if I had to tell the children this big news a couple of weeks ago, when I found out that we were really moving.
First of all, and probably most important, I could only tell them when I was ready to cope with the idea that this was really happening. To tell them this big news, I needed to be calm and positive myself. Since our children are still young, we would tell the children about the move, where we are going and then ask them what moving is. We are homeschooling after all. How would you describe moving? And while showing them a map of the world, and ask them how they would you move from one continent to another? Further exploring the subject of an international move, we would do arts & crafts on moving, we would play and pretend to be movers and so on.
Keep an eye on what is important for them
As a mom, I can only guess what they think is important to them. But I decided to ask my then three year old, at the time. I explained to him what it entailed to move from one continent to another. That we would go on a trip on an airplane and that all our belongings would be shipped in a container on a boat. I asked him what would be important for him to take with him on the plane and what would be important for him to have in the new house. Without hesitation he told me, he needed his bed.
Now, almost two years later, when things are really happening I asked him again about the move. His focus has shifted from his bed to his Lego collection.
What we keep in mind during the preparation phase is:
■Make the children part of the moving process. It will be a team effort. It will affect their lives too. It is not that they have a stay-or-go say. But we talk about where we are moving to and what moving means. That they are not able to see their friends and family when they want and that they are not able to bring all their toys, so they should make a choice. For a child it is important to have some control over what you can pack too. So let your child pack his own toys.
■Help them feel involved on moving day by allowing the children to pack their flight bag, selecting the books, toys and snacks they would like to take.
■Familiarize the children with technologies as Skype and Facetime to stay in touch with friends and family.
■Keep an eye on the one-of-a-kind items. The things that can’t be replaced. Like the two dragons one of my best friends and aunt to my children crocheted for my boys. Those things have to come along and have to be packed in our checked in baggage. Or maybe your child has a favorite toy or teddy bear which is hard to replace.
■Take the time to answer any question the children have about the move. How big or small it might seem. A child can get very nervous or even frustrated when a question goes unanswered and his or her mind starts thinking of another explanation.
■Although we are preparing for a move, we try to keep things as much the same as possible. In our case it is easier, since we homeschool. But think of things that you can continue doing during and after the move.
■Learn about the new country and the new city. Show the destination on the map. Where are we going and how do we get there. How will our personal items get there.
■Learn about what moving actually is, what does it mean to you and to the children and play a little with the theme.
■Give the children the opportunity to see their friends and say goodbye. I asked the parents of their friends to provide a photograph of their children and to write their address on the back. With all those pictures, I will make a photoalbum/addressbook for the children.
■Don’t forget to say goodbye to the places you all love.
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