Humans are creatures of habit. Even when we welcome it, change takes more energy than we expect. So perhaps it’s not surprising that children often find it difficult to make transitions between activities, places and objects of attention. Even more difficult is the challenge of transitioning to a new country. A big move affects directly the behavior of our children, especially for kids who have emotional or developmental challenges.
Many children struggle with transitions, which are common triggers for behaviors that range from whining and stalling to upsetting tantrums and meltdowns. However, there are many ways parents and teachers can help kids have an easier time with transitions, but it may take a little experimentation to find out what clicks with each particular child. Every family is different and every child is unique.
What to do before the Big Move?
When you’re planning your overseas move and there are children involved, the planning is so spectacularly complicated that it’s almost impossible to think of everything. No doubt you have lists as long as both arms, which are a constant work in progress and you’re still worrying about what you might have missed.
Provide a safe place to express their feelings
One of the easiest things to overlook, while you’re rushing around putting plans in place, is that your child has ideas and feelings of his or her own. All too often an overseas move is something that happens to a child, instead of being something that involves a child. However, letting your child have some input will make life much easier in the long run.
The world of a child is unexpectedly complex and the things they worry about are not always the things we might expect. Added to this, their understanding of time, distance and space is very limited, so the concept of moving to a new home, in another part of the world, for a defined period, can be totally alien. By being aware of this, you will be able to help them understand it all a little better. I also suggest you share your own feelings and fear with your child and role model handling emotions in a healthy way.
Create opportunities to say goodbye to people, places and activities
In reality, any child under the age of 12 won’t maintain a long-distance friendship for a prolonged period of time but feeling that they are able to do so is vital. Contact their friend’s parents and swap addresses, Skype and social media details, depending on age suitability. Promise your child that you will help them to keep in touch and keep that promise until they lose interest of their own accord. Make sure they know that they can visit their family and friends back home anytime, but allow them to take advantage of the situation and make new friends.
Don’t forget the emotional aspect of the Big Move
Whatever stage of moving abroad with your family you’re in, a big move is particularly emotional and distressing for the children. Younger kids, in particular, may feel confused by the big change. Adults tend to focus on the practicalities of the move; children are more likely to focus on the losses that moving will bring. Each family is different; some children may take the move in stride, while others may be worried about making new friends.
Children do not have the ability to put fears, anxieties or thoughts to one side. Their feelings are their driving force and can change from one minute to the next. That is why it is very important that we make time to answer their questions, talk about the move and observe the child’s behavior as close as possible.
Give journaling and arts and crafts a chance
Creating art can take your mind off of whatever is stressing you, at least for a few minutes. It’s difficult to keep ruminating on your problems when you’re focused on creating. If your problems stay with you, you can incorporate them into your creations. Once you’re done, you should have a clearer head with which to tackle your problems again. The same thing happens with children. Providing materials and time for them to create a piece of art, paint, or journal their feelings about the big move, can be a wonderful tool to help children regulate their emotions and get excited about their new home.
Browsing through tons of journals and workbooks to give my nephews a tool to document their big move from the States to Luxembourg, I found the amazing Me and My Big Move Workbook by Marloes Huijsmans, Dutch mom in Taipei, and Lonneke van den Elshout, Dutch mom in Seattle.
Me and My Big Move Workbook is a fun and interactive resource full of awesome activities and colorful journal pages to prepare kids (age 5-12) for their big adventure. Me and My Big Move is a workbook designed by experts all around the world to help create a positive mindset and build resilience in every stage of the relocation process; before, during, and long after settling in.
What do I love about Me and My Big Move?
Me and My Big Move covers every phase of the relocations process, from preparing children before they leave their current home, to exploring their new place and eventually journaling their trips and visits after they have settled in their new place.
Emotional regulation and curiosity are encouraged by the different drawing, reading, talking and writing activities in this workbook. Children will be able to effectively regulate their emotions, create an open mind-set for new experiences and have fun making new friends.
If you are looking for a tool to help your child better handle transition due to a big move this workbook is a great choice for that!!!
Psst!!!! Marloes and I have joined our passion for helping children transition any big changes to create a mini workbook designed to promote language learning at home in a fun and engaging way!!!! Check it out!!!
(This is not a paid advertisement. My opinions are based on my personal experience with the product).