7 Tips to help expat kids settle abroad
Moving to a new environment, having to leave your social circle behind and going to a new school with new children: a move within your own country already has a big impact on children. Let alone when you move to a completely different country. It is therefore understandable that, as a parent, you worry about your children when you move. Of course you want everything to run smoothly and you want your children to be happy. We have 7 tips to help your kids settle abroad.
Tip 1. Involve them in the moving process
Get and keep them involved! Children often get frustrated when moving house, because of a lack of control. Try to give them more control and involve them in the moving process. For example, let them unpack their own things and decorate their room, or ask for their opinion when choosing interiors (‘do you like the green or the white sofa better?’). This will make moving house more fun and later they will be able to proudly tell others what they have contributed to in the house.
Tip 2. Keep in touch with loved ones
Homesickness sucks. Just like for you, moving away from friends and family is also hard for children. The first few weeks or even months, the homesickness will be the worst and there will be times when they feel lonely. Therefore, try to keep in regular contact with friends and family. For example, schedule a time every weekend that you video call them together.
Video calls can be made via WhatsApp, Facetime (Apple users), Skype or Zoom.
Tip #3. Help make new friends
Besides maintaining contact with their old friends, it is also important to make new ones. This is always exciting, for both young and older children. Children are also reluctant to admit when they are struggling, and some children make friends more easily than others. Try to help them by scheduling playdates, going to public places like a pool or a park, and seeing if they might like to take up a hobby or sport. This will provide many opportunities to make new connections.
Tip #4. Routines
Before you moved, did you eat a traditional dish every Friday? Or did you read a bedtime story every night? Try to keep those routines. Children thrive on routines because it gives them a sense of security and stability. Plus, it’s always fun to start new routines. Here are some examples of routines you can do:
- A weekly pancake day: on this day you make pancakes together.
- A weekly creative day: on this day you do something creative together like painting, pottery, etc.
- A weekly moment when you bake or cook something together.
- Brushing teeth in the evening with a song they may choose.
- Choosing outfits together for the next day.
Tip 5. Do new activities together
When you’re new somewhere, everything can still be scary and exciting. For children the world seems bigger than for adults. So go out together and explore the neighborhood and culture. Here are a few tips:
- Walking through the neighborhood and looking for playgrounds
- Going to a park for a picnic and to spot animals
- Go to a local market, buy some delicacies and ingredients and then cook a recipe from home or from the country you live in now.
It is helpful to walk the same routes a few times during the first few weeks when exploring the neighborhood together. This helps children to recognize everything and makes them feel confident and at home. It is also useful, if they ever get lost, then they can easily find their way back.
Tip 6. Ask how things are really going
You know the situation, you ask your child how their day was and they say ‘good’, no more and no less. Choose a daily moment to talk to your child about their day, experiences and feelings. With more specific questions you will know more about what is going on, how they feel and if there is a need for more. Here are some examples of questions you can ask:
- What was the best moment of the day?
- What was the worst moment of the day?
- What moment did you find challenging or exciting?
- Who did you talk and play with at school?
- How were the kids in your class and the teachers today?
- Is there anything you would like more help with? (subjects at school, the language, culture…)
Tip #7. Have patience and empathy
Know when it is enough for your child. We understand that you want your child to feel at home as soon as possible and that it can be frustrating when your child refuses to cooperate because the solution is so close, but be patient and know when to take a step back. For children, sometimes it’s a lot to process as well. After all, some children adapt more quickly than others.
TOSS hopes that your children will be able to adapt quickly. Do you also have problems settling down in your new home and country? We also have some tips for you in our blog how to deal with loneliness when living abroad.