Oasis Magazine Articles

Relocating Young Expats

By Emilie Udell

You have packed your family's belongings, said your good byes, learned “hello,” “thank you,”, and “where is the restroom?” in your new country’s language, made arrangements at your destination, and now your new job and life are just a 12-hour plane ride away. Your family has stepped up to the challenge of an overseas move. 

You are all set to go, but there are still nagging questions; will there be playgrounds, cheerleading practice, and your child’s favorite activities in your new host country? 

Under all the other stresses of moving, it’s easy to overlook the amount of anxiety your children may be experiencing now that they are faced with the idea of starting an entirely new life. Expatica.com, an online resource for expatriates, estimates 45% of expatriates have children aged 5-12. Just like parents, young expats face numerous tribulations when moving, from emotionally draining circumstances such as having to give up the family dog or saying goodbye to friends to challenges that are mentally draining like learning an entirely new language and cultural mindset. All of these factors on top of the usual developmental changes kids go through can make moving even more traumatic. 

The good thing is you can help your children prepare for the move, and it can be as simple as being receptive to their concerns and keeping communication lines open. The more you talk about what to expect when you move, the more they will be able to mentally and emotionally prepare for their new surroundings. 

Introduce Your Destination
Try to familiarize him/her with the country by reading books related to the country in which you will be living. If your child will be required to speak another language, look into getting a tutor to teach him/her basic phrases. You can also try online or video courses to aide in learning the language.

Keep in Touch 
Make sure your child has an address book to record their friends’ contact information, and even a camera to get pictures. Create scrapbooks and photo albums to preserve memories. When they start to feel homesick, your kids will be happy they have connections to their old friends through photo albums, and the ability to share new experiences with them through emails and letters. 

Express through Art
Encourage your kids to explore their new surroundings through photography, video, or creative writing. Creative outlets are a great way for them to express their feelings, and see the beauty in a new situation. Many organizations have contests for writing and artwork. For children of Foreign Service members, there are organizations such as the Foreign Service Youth Foundation that holds regular contests, in addition to workshops on topics including college preparation. For more information, visit www.fsyf.org.

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