So, you and your family are moving on to your next stage of life – in a completely new location after getting used to life in Singapore. Uprooting yourself from a familiar location is exciting and daunting, amongst many other things, but do understand that with the stress of moving and living new lives, parents can sometimes forget that moving is also trying for children. You can, however, take simple steps to help your children with their impending transitions. Read on for some tips on handling an international move with expat children.
1. Communicate with your children about what to expect
Talk to your children about the move – let them know what the move will be like, and challenges that might surface during and after the relocation. Perhaps they won’t find their new place as convenient as Singapore, or there may be language barriers in the new place. For example, foreigners are not quite likely to understand Singlish, so your children have to be mindful about speaking to new people. Your kids may be young, but it is important to let them be part of the process. In this way, you can identify and address problems in advance.
2. Prepare your children to ease their transition
Do remember that the news of moving may spark fear and uncertainties even in children – they may not understand the heavier implications, but they will realise they are going to lose their familiar lifestyles and friends behind. Photos of the new country and your new neighbourhood, as well as some information about daily life abroad, can help your children immensely with the lifestyle and cultural transition. For younger children especially, transitional exercise can be useful; for example, you can include them in the packing process or let them pick out the new colours in their rooms – these give them an enhanced sense of control at a time where they may feel lost. Also, ensure that their favourite belongings, such as toys, books and even pillows are packed and brought along with you, instead of leaving them with your international movers. Such large-scale moves can sometimes encounter delays, creating unnecessary stress for your little ones if they have to go without their familiar items of comfort during a time of immense confusion.
3. Highlight the positive
Focus on the good things about your move. For example, you may be moving into a bigger house with your own garden, pool or backyard, or to a country where you can experience the four seasons (i.e. goodbye to 30 degrees celsius heat all year round!) – something that not many Singaporeans enjoy or perhaps there will be an exciting extra-curricular activity available in the new place that wasn’t possible or popular enough in Singapore. But above all, remember that your own attitude towards your international relocation will have a great impact on your children – if you are feeling stressed or upset about having to uproot your family, your children will likely catch on, and feel the same. So, try to be optimistic about your move, and get your little ones ready for the exciting adventure ahead.
4. Establish a routine
With the tasks of unpacking, settling in, talking to contractors and doing all the necessary administrative matters, things like keeping to mealtimes and bedtime may not be your biggest priorities. However, it is important to set up a routine for your children as soon as you reach your new home – children thrive on predictability, and doing this can help them better in adapting to their new lives and surroundings. So, take a little time out of your busy schedules trying to settle in – it’s going to be worth it!
5. Build new friendships while maintaining old ones
One of the most unsettling parts for children who move is having to leave their friends. Some children may start to feel isolated if they don’t have a support group with other children close to their age. It’s easy for children in Singapore to find new playmates – they’ll make new friends at any one of the many playgrounds on the island, but it may not be the same in other countries. You can try enrolling your little ones in extra-curricular activities so that they can interact and make new friends with like-minded people. Finding support groups online, that is, groups that encourage children to get together to interact can help as well. While you are doing these, let your children know that moving to a new community doesn’t mean that they have to let go of old friendships. Thanks to social media, they can keep in touch with their old friends – these old friends can also support by helping your children stay connected to familiar and friendly faces as they start to build connections in a new environment.
At the same time, you can talk to your children’s teachers about your move and its accompanying concerns. This helps the teachers understand that your children are going through a stressful time, and monitor their progress as they transition into their new environment. The teachers will also be able to talk to your children’s classmates about what they are going through. The other children will then be better able to empathise with your kids and offer another avenue of social support.
Remember, moving is just as challenging for your kids as it is for you, but you can always take steps to make things easier for them – and in turn the entire family. Here at CYC, we understand all the stresses of moving, so we do our best to ease your burden as much as we can. Reach out to our moving professionals to find out more about what we can do for you. We hope you’ve enjoyed your time in Singapore, and wish you all the best in your future endeavours!