Moving children overseas
· It is better NOT to tell younger children about the move until you are in the late stages of moving. Toddlers live in the present. They will not understand the concept of moving if you tell them about it months in advance. In fact, telling your young children about the move too soon may cause confusion and anxiety. It is best to wait to break the news to toddlers until you are at a stage of the move where they will actually be involved.
· Tell teenagers about the move as soon as possible. Unlike younger children, teenagers need time to think, plan and adjust to the idea of moving. After all, they will be leaving behind their school, friends and social life. It is best to give teenagers plenty of time to make the necessary plans and adjustments.
· Break the news with a positive, adventurous attitude. If your attitude is mournful or apologetic, the children will pick up on this. If, however, you present the move as a positive opportunity, it is more likely that your children will receive the news with excitement.
· Strive to make clear that the move is a team decision, and outline the benefits of moving for the entire family. At the same time, do not patronise your child. For example, if you are moving because of a divorce, your child may not be ready to embrace the change as an entirely positive thing. But regardless of the situation, make sure your child understands he or she will enjoy at least some benefits because of the move, and stress to your children that moving is the best choice for the whole family.
· This is a time to develop trust with your child, so do not make promises you cannot keep. It may be tempting to offer your child a reward for moving, such as a new dog, but make sure you can keep this promise. Changing your mind will cause your child to find it harder to trust you.
· If you do make promises, make sure they are not bribes. Bribing your children to accept the move will only reinforce the idea that moving is negative, and something for which you have to compensate.
· Treat your teenager’s feelings with respect: avoid fobbing them off with clichés. This can be more difficult than it seems, especially if you truly do believe “time heals all wounds” and “everything will be fine”. Before you brush away your teenager’s concerns, stop yourself and try to understand their feelings. Most adults underestimate how difficult moving is for teenagers. Teenagers are trying to develop their own individual identities, and they depend on support from their peers. Suddenly losing this support group can be terrifying. Be patient with your teenager, and sensitive to their concerns.
· Be honest about your own fears, but do not burden your children. You may feel pressure to stay upbeat about the move for the sake of the children, but that does not mean you have to suppress your feelings. Letting your children know you share some of their concerns can help them feel reassured that they are not alone. Just do not wallow in misery or give them anything new to cry about. Every time you share your concerns with your children, remind them of the positive responses to these concerns. For example, if you tell your children you are sad about leaving your friends, mention that you are also excited about making new friends.